Dharamsala, March 23 : With India and Australia clashing in a winner-takes-all finale to an enthralling series, the picturesque town of Dharamsala in the Himalayan foothills could hardly have asked for a better debut as a test venue.
Both the hosts and tourists emerged with their share of glory from the drawn third test in Ranchi to leave the four-match series on knife-edge at 1-1 going into the decider, which starts on Saturday.
While popular wisdom has it that test cricket must produce more results to survive the onslaught of the limited-overs game, there can be little doubt that the drawn third test, also at a new venue, produced the best contest of a thrilling series.
CheteshwarPujara's more than 11 hours of defiance for India was matched by a game-saving final day rearguard action from Australians Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh.Australianpaceman Pat Cummins also made a roaring return to test cricket, while India's RavindraJadeja claimed nine wickets to suggest that he is no longer content playing second fiddle to spin colleague Ravichandran Ashwin.
Interestingly, RavindraJadeja surpassed his fellow mate Ashwin in the ICC rankings and attained the top spot as the No.1 Test bowler in the world.
The two teams have moved to the Himalayas after the Ranchi draw, and with so much at stake, the expectation is that the level of cricket at Dharamsala will be just as high when the top two sides in the world resume the fray under snow-capped mountain peaks.
Australian skipper Steve Smith believes that the momentum is with his team, who only need a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy but will have their eyes on a first series triumph in India for 13 years.
"I'm sure they're hurting a little bit in their change room," Smith, who made an unbeaten 178 in the first innings in Ranchi, said after Australia's great escape."If there's anything with momentum in cricket it's probably on our side at the minute. It's 1-1 all and we have decider in Dharamsala which is really exciting."
ViratKohli has rarely seen eye to eye with Smith on any issue in what has been a fractious series, and the India captain manifestly differed on the matter of momentum."It's a matter of individual perception. We're happy where we had positioned ourselves," he said, subtly pointing out the needlessness of his team to bat for the second time.
The first every international cricket test match, and the final of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, will begin on March 25, Saturday from 9:30 AM.