Sydney: The way India grinded it out on the fifth day of the Sydney Test, there was not much that Australians could have changed, said top batsmen Marnus Labuschagne but asserted that the hosts are determined to win the series by taking the visitors down in the Brisbane match.
India's batting unit showed tremendous resilience to eke out a memorable draw while chasing a herculean 407 in Sydney.
"We played a (drawn) Test match today but it's a Test series and we're here to win," Labuschagne, who scored 91 and 73 in the two innings at SCG, told cricket.com.au.
"Regardless of the result of this game, if we won or it was a draw, we had to go to the Gabba and win. So nothing's changed for us it's a matter of changing our focus and making sure we take them down at the Gabba."
Hanuma Vihari (23 not out off 161 balls) and Ravichandran Ashwin (39 not out off 128 balls) batted out the entire evening session on day five after Rishabh Pant (97 off 118 balls) and Cheteshwar Pujara (77 off 205 balls) produced a combative 148-run stand as India finished at 334 for 5 in 131 overs.
Labuschagne said Australia were expecting a little more help from the fifth day pitch but credited India for hanging on for a remarkable draw.
"A day five SCG wicket usually has a little more rough, a little bit more inconsistent bounce, but when a team blocks out 131 overs, that's fair play to them," the 26-year-old said.
"They batted well, they grinded well, and I think we couldn't have changed much. You have respect for the opposition and you respect the way they play. It's Test cricket. No one that's playing Test cricket just lets it go. They all show heart because they're playing for their country."
Australia's pace trio of Pat Cummins (26-6-72-1), Josh Hazlewood (26-12-39-2) and Mitchell Starc (22-6-66-0) and spinner Nathan Lyon (46-17-114-2) tried every possible trick but couldn't break India's resolve as the visitors snatched a memorable draw.
"I'd by no means say it was an off day, I think they put the ball there for long periods of time," Labuschagne said.
"We played really well. Probably that first innings we could've probably got a few more runs, but apart from that it was a really good game from us."
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In the 21st century, there have only been 20 instances of a visiting batsman playing more than 350 balls in a Test in Australia. The only man to have done so thrice is Cheteshwar Pujara. The games in question? Adelaide 2018, Sydney 2019, Sydney 2021 – a series-opening win, a series-clinching draw, and now this. That is impact.
India chased down the improbably 328-run target set by Australia to become the first team in 32 years to win a Test at the Brisbane Cricket Ground, sealing the four-match series in their favour as well.
Amid all the adversities, India have stood strong and the grit and resilience they displayed on the final day of the Sydney Test was a testament to their mental strength and how far they have come from that Adelaide capitulation.