AFTER 15 days of captivating cricket, two closely matched rivals head to Nagpur with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to be won or lost – and with tensions simmering following another on-field altercation, this time involving Australian paceman Mitchell Johnson.
The Australians were again unable to bowl India out to force a result as the match, Anil Kumble’s last as he announced his retirement last night, ended in a draw. Still, the Australians will return to the scene of their historic series victory four years ago knowing they can still retain the Trophy that appeared to be slipping from their grasp in Mohali a fortnight ago.
Johnson sledged V.V.S. Laxman about remarks he made following his double-century in the first innings, when the Indian batsman criticised the Australians’ defensive approach and said captain Ricky Ponting had spoken negatively about his team’s hopes in the series.
"There was a few words spoken there. There was no real malice in anything Mitchell had to say," Ponting said last night. "It was about some of the comments V.V.S. had made in the newspapers, that was all he was talking about. The umpires spoke to me and said it had happened three times in the over, I think, and that wasn’t acceptable so I spoke to Mitchell at the break and that was it."
However, Ponting insisted the altercations involving Shane Watson, Simon Katich and Johnson did not reflect Australian frustrations at being unable to bowl India out twice.
"I would like to think those things are not getting to us on the field. We have got a job to do, and if we are struggling to take wickets that stuff is never going to help you," he said.
Ponting paid tribute to Kumble, saying: "He has been a great competitor and one of the modern greats of the game."
Australia arrived at Feroz Shah Kotla yesterday intent on pursuing a win to reprise memories of the famous come-from-behind victory against England at Adelaide Oval two summers ago, but after a couple of early strikes, they encountered strong resistance from Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly.
Johnson figured prominently, capturing the wicket of double-century maker Gautam Gambhir for 36 with a ball that was shaping in and appeared to be missing leg stump, the wicket of the in-form left-hander sparking an exuberant celebration.
Johnson then mouthed off at incoming batsman and man of the match Laxman several times during his next over.
The incident was one of several heated moments in the intensely fought third Test, during, which Gambhir received a one-match ban for elbowing Watson in the ribs. Watson was fined 10 per cent of his match fee for provoking him. Another confrontation between Gambhir and Katich passed without charges being laid.
Undeterred by the sledging, Laxman yesterday added an unbeaten 59 to his brilliant double-ton in the first innings to frustrate Australia’s push for an improbable victory after India resumed on the fifth morning with a lead of 79. Rahul Dravid chopped Brett Lee onto his stumps for 11, and is the only one of India’s "Fab Four" not to have fired in the first three Tests.
The Australians could prise out only one Indian batsman in the second session, when Tendulkar fell to Cameron White for the second time with an edge snaffled safely by Matthew Hayden at slip. But India had already ensured a draw.