Captain Smith leaves it too late

Another Test win as captain went begging for Steve Smith. Picture: GETTY IMAGESCRICKET
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Australia reclaimed the Border-Gavaskar trophy, as a hostile Boxing Day Test with India ended in a draw.

Needing only a draw to win the series, Steve Smith declared at lunch on day five and asked the tourists to attempt a record run-chase of 384 runs in two sessions at the MCG.

India slumped to 3-19 in reply and the four-Test series was thus decided.

The victory India needed to keep the series alive, which would have set a new mark for successful Test run-chases at the MCG, was never likely.

It became a question of a draw or Australian victory, but the tourists held their nerve to be 6-174 on Tuesday when the captains agreed to end the game with four overs remaining.

Smith was content with his “quite late” declaration at 9-318.

“They have some pretty powerful batters in the shed and I didn’t want to give them a sniff,” Smith said in the post-match ceremony, where Ryan Harris was named man of the match for his six wickets, and 74 in the first innings.

“It was all about the series.”

Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane did the bulk of the stonewalling, their fourth-wicket stand lasting 26 overs and 85 runs.

Kohli fell the first ball after tea for 54, while a superb ball from Mitchell Johnson turned to kiss the top of off stump to dismiss Cheteshwar Pujara.

The stage was set for a thrilling finish when a mistimed pull ended Rahane’s 199 minutes of resistance, with the hosts needing four wickets in 15 overs.

Edges popped up here and there in the final hour, but MS Dhoni and Ravichandran Ashwin were unbeaten at stumps.

“In my mind, Australia batted too long,” commentator Shane Warne said.

The hosts will curse their fielding on days three and five, when too many chances went begging.

India’s initial collapse on Tuesday could easily have been worse, with Kohli almost run out on four after a mix-up with Murali Vijay in the fifth over.

David Warner’s return was wide of Brad Haddin, prompting another heated exchange between Kohli and the wicketkeeper.

Chris Rogers dropped a catch at point when Rahane was on 22 and lashed at a wide ball from Johnson.

Nathan Lyon fumbled a return at the bowler’s end just before tea, with replays suggesting Kohli could have been run out.

Kohli and Rahane both got off the mark with pulled boundaries, refusing to curb their natural aggression after Shikhar Dhawan, debutant KL Rahul and Vijay all fell cheaply.

Kohli, who has had numerous clashes with Australia throughout the series, was booed to the crease by some sections of the MCG crowd.

Earlier Shaun Marsh was run out on 99, falling centimetres short of his first Test century on home soil.

Two rain delays didn’t help the situation, but neither side had much interest in pushing the game along during a stop-start morning session. AAP

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