Australia captain Tim Paine was on Monday seen and heard trying to sledge India's Ravichandran Ashwin, who was involved in a solid, match saving partnership with Hanuma Vihari on the fifth and final day of the third Test here. But not only was Paine unsuccessful in provoking Ashwin, he dropped three crucial catches -- one each of Rishabh Pant, Ashwin, and Vihari -- that probably cost his team a win.
On the other hand, Ashwin and Vihari batted on bravely while bearing body pain and remained unseparated after putting on 62 pricesless runs for the sixth wicket as the match ended in a draw.
With this draw at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), the four-Test series remains levelled 1-1, with the fourth and last match starting on Friday.
Paine's first mistake came in the 40th over of the Indian innings, when Pant had scored just three. The bowler to suffer was off-spinner Nathan Lyon, and India were at a not-too-healthy 110 for three wickets while chasing 407 for win.
Paine dropped Pant a second time when the left-hander was on 56 (off 71 balls) and India were at 174 for three. Lyon was the unlucky bowler. Pant went on to scored an almost game-changing 97 off 118 balls.
Before Paine committed his third mistake of the day, substitute fielder Sean Abbott, in for Will Pucovski, put down a catch of Ashwin off fast bowler Pat Cummins, when the batsman was on 15. Ashwin remained unbeaten after a magnificent innings.
Paine, who was constantly needling Ashwin, dropped the third catch, this time of Vihari when he had scored just 15 (off 135 balls) and India were on 319 for five. The bowler to suffer was speedster Mitchell Starc.
Despite the dropped catches Paine continued his attempts to distract India batsmen. During his innings, Ashwin was seen backing away from his stance on a couple of occasions and looking at Paine during Lyon's over as the Australia wicketkeeper-captain tried to break his concentration even as the game progressed towards a draw.
In the 122nd over, Paine was heard on the stump mic saying: "Can't wait to get you to the Gabba, Ash". He was referring to the Indian team's reluctance to travel to Brisbane for the fourth Test due to the hard quarantine rules in that city, though on Monday it was confirmed that the Test would be played in Brisbane as scheduled.
Ashwin replied: "Just like we wanna get you to India, may be your last series."
"Even your teammates think you're a goose. Don't they? Every one of them. How many IPL teams wanted you, when you asked every single one of them to have you?" Paine further told the all-rounder.
Ashwin's wife Prithi was amused by the conversation and tweeted: "Where to get full transcript of conversations from stump mics."
Chasing a mammoth target of 407, India reached 334/5 batting for 131 overs before both teams decided to shake hands during the final session of the day.
Ashwin scored an unbeaten 39 off the 128 deliveries and along with an injured Hanuma Vihari -- who was barely able to move due to injury -- he shared an unbeaten 62-run partnership, while batting for more than 40 overs and prevented the hosts from taking a 2-1 lead. Vihari, batting with an injured hamstring, remained unbeatne on 23, scored off 161 balls.