They overcame injuries. They saw off a barrage of short-pitched stuff from the world’s best pace unit. They wore down a quality spinner on a Day 5 pitch. They even conversed in Tamil. But most importantly, Hanuma Vihari and R. Ashwin’s 259-ball blockathon ensured that the excellent work by Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant in the first half the last day’s play didn’t go to waste as India managed a memorable draw in the third Test.
No wonder India captain Ajinkya Rahane had a special word of praise for Ashwin and Vihari after the match. “I think everyone chipped in for the team’s cause but credit to those two guys who chipped in and batted almost two and half house till the end.”
While overnight back pain didn’t deter Ashwin’s courage, Vihari hurt his hamstring early on in his innings and was virtually unable to jog even for singles. Still, the duo carried on, with Ashwin playing the senior’s role to perfection, egging on Vihari - at times in Tamil - with the Andhra batsman being a regular in TNCA league.
While Rahane stressed that the dressing room was “sure about Ashwin’s ability as a batsman”, he reserved special praise for Vihari. Not only did he carry on despite the injury, Vihari came in to bat on Monday on the back of a woeful run - with the bat and in the field - in the series so far.
“We saw a special knock today. His knock was more special than his hundred. The way he batted after getting injured, to show that motivation, that hunger, to hang in there for your team was really good and that’s what we want from each and every individual,” Rahane said.
Had it not been for Pant’s onslaught and Pujara’s patience earlier in the day, the lower order would have required to deep in much deeper than it did. While Pujara was at his nonchalant best, Pant grabbed his promotion to No. 5 with a blistering innings.
“Going out there at No. 5 - the captain or the team management can make strategies - but in the end it’s up to that individual to actually go out there and deliver for your team and Rishabh did that for us,” Rahane said.
“The way he counter-attacked, the way he actually managed his innings throughout the day was really good to see. About his character, we know that he can actually win games for us from any situation. We have that belief in any him.”
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