SYDNEY, Jan 10 (PTI): India overcame some anxious moments on a tricky fifth day track before salvaging a tense draw in the fourth and final cricket Test against Australia who sealed the four-match series with a 2-0 margin, here today.
Chasing a stiff target of 349 for a win, India started off well but suffered a dramatic collapse in the post tea session to just about eke out a draw by finishing on 252 for seven in 89.5 overs on an absorbing fifth day�s play at the SGC.
India were comfortably placed at 160 for two at tea and needed 189 runs off 33 overs for a win in the final session.
The complexion of the game changed completely after the tea break with Murali Vijay (80), in-form captain Virat Kohli (46), Suresh Raina (0) and Wriddhiman Saha (0) and Ravichandran Ashwin (1) departing in quick succession to give Australia a sniff of victory.
But Ajinkya Rahane (38 not out) and Bhuvaneswar Kumar (20 not out) played out almost 12 tense overs to save the game for the Indians, who were badly let down by their wayward bowlers right through the series.
The 2-0 series verdict meant that Australia regained the Border-Gavaskar trophy by virtue of their victories in Adelaide and Brisbane. The Boxing Day Test at Melbourne ended in a draw.
For Australia Josh Hazzlewood (2/31), Mitchell Starc (2/36) and off-spinner Nathan Lyon (2/110) shared six wickets between them.
The stage was set for a pulsating fifth day�s play with Australia declaring their second innings at the overnight score of 251 for six, giving India a target of 349 in 90 overs to register their first win in the series.
India lost young opener Lokesh Rahul (16) early but Vijay and Rohit Sharma (39) stitched 56 runs for the second wicket to stabilise the innings.
Coming on to bat after lunch, Vijay and Rohit looked to carry on their good work, but their partnership didn�t last long.
Rohit came out positive but perished when he chose to guide one from Watson down past the slip cordon and Australia captain Steve Smith took a brilliant one-handed catch diving to his right to dismiss the batsman.
Vijay was then joined in the middle by Kohli and they batted with maturity, looking to pick up runs whenever the opportunity arrived.
The 100-run mark for India came up in the 37th over and then Vijay had a huge moment, when on 42, he was dropped by Shaun Marsh at short cover off Ryan Harris.
In the very next over, on 46, Vijay survived another LBW shout as umpire Richard Kettleborough was not convinced even though TV replays showed that he was out.
Vijay soon completed his fourth half-century of the series as India went to tea placed at 160 for two.
Needing 189 runs in the last session with two set batmen at the crease and eight wickets in hand, the Indians came out with a positive intent and looked to give themselves a chance.
Vijay, who scored his runs off 165 balls with the help of seven boundaries and two sixes, and Kohli played positively and it seemed they were looking for an improbable last-session victory.
But it wasn�t to be as the former got out in a bid to up the ante, caught behind off Hazlewood after sharing a 74-run partnership for the third wicket with Kohli.
India reached the 200-run mark in the 67th over but shortly thereafter Kohli departed, caught at first slip by Shane Watson off Starc. Kohli�s dismissal put paid to any hopes of Indian victory and from there onwards it was just about saving the match for the visitors.
But Raina, who made a golden pair, and Saha were dismissed quickly by Starc and Lyon as the visitors lost three wickets for just seven runs.
Ashwin then played out 22 deliveries even as Rahane was solid at the other end and they started eating up overs in a stand that lasted 7.1 overs worth only nine runs.
But tension rose again when Ashwin was trapped LBW by Hazlewood.
However Bhuvneshwar came out and played some attacking strokes to defy the hosts as he and Rahane added 35 runs and played out 69 tense deliveries to save the match for India.
Earlier, India produced a solid batting performance to reach 73 for one at lunch.
Australia 1st innings: 572/7 decl
India 1st innings: 475
Australia 2nd innings (overnight 251 for 6): C Rogers c Raina b Kumar 56, D Warner c Vijay b Ashwin 4, S Watson b Ashwin 16, S Smith lbw b Shami 71, S Marsh c Vijay b Ashwin 1, J Burns c Yadav b Ashwin 66, B Haddin not out 31, R Harris not out 0. Extras: (B-2, LB-2, NB-2) 6. Total: (For 6 wkts decl; 40 overs) 251. Fall of wickets: 1-6, 2-46, 3-126, 4-139, 5-165, 6-251. Bowling: Bhuvneshwar Kumar 8-0-46-1, R Ashwin 19-2-105-4, Mohammed Shami 6-0-33-1, Unmesh Yadav 3-0-45-0, Suresh Raina 4-0-18-0.
India 2nd innings: M Vijay c Haddin b Hazlewood 80, L Rahul c Warner b Lyon 16, R Sharma c Smith b Watson 39, V Kohli c Watson b Starc 46, A Rahane not out 38, S Raina lbw b Starc 0, W Saha lbw b Lyon 0, R Ashwin lbw b Hazlewood 1, B Kumar not out 20. Extras: (B-4, LB-8) 12. Total: (For 7 wkts; 89.5 overs) 252. Fall of wickets: 1-48, 2-104, 3-178, 4-201, 5-203, 6-208, 7-217. Bowling: Mitchell Starc 19-7-36-2, Ryan Harris 13-3-34-0, Nathan Lyon 30.5-5-110-2, Josh Hazlewood 17-7-31-2, Steven Smith 2-0-7-0, Shane Watson 8-2-22-1.