The first session of the final day of the 3rd Test between Australia and India turned out to be a damp squib, in more ways than one, after the home team decided "we don't have enough runs and there is still too much time" and just went on batting, not too quickly it must be said, to rather dampen everyone's spirits on a cloudy morning in Melbourne.
And then it all came alive again from the start of the second session, with India's penchant for losing wickets quicker than Usain Bolt runs his 200 metres, bringing that win result right back into focus, albeit only for Australia.
Australia batted out the entire first session much to everyone's surprise, eventually declaring at 318 for nine to give India a target of 384 to chase down in two sessions, extended ones at that.
That was never going to happen, no matter how many times Virat Kohli might have said this India side will always go for the win, and quickly enough an inevitable draw, which looked like the most probable result at the start of the second session, turned into a possible Australia victory as the away team lost wickets in a heap. India then halted the wicket-train, only to lose the plot again, before eventually finding that wherewithal to see off the day on a nothing-much-to-offer-pitch to hold on for a draw in a gripping MCG Test match.
India finished on 174 for six in 66 overs -- captain MS Dhoni and R Ashwin staying in the middle unconquered -- with Australia falling short of taking a 3-0 lead in the series by four wickets -- they probably only have themselves to blame, though, having wasted all that time batting the entire first session.
The onus was on the in-form duo of Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, after India lost three wickets in a heap, with the duo taking the team to Tea at 104 for three in 34 overs.
But India never do easy do they? Disaster struck in the very first ball of the final session, with Kohli (54, 99b, 7x4) looping a catch to Joe Burns at square leg off the bowling of the superlative Harris (16-8-30-2), leaving India on a precarious 104/4.
Rahane and Pujara stuck around for nearly 17 overs together -- runs did not matter one bit -- looking to take India to those safe draw shores, with that twist coming into play again in over number 51.
Pujara (21, 73b, 3x4) was the victim of a splendid delivery from a charged-up Mitchell Johnson (15-3-38-2), who bowled an off-cutter for the ages around the wicket which pitched on middle and struck the off stump.
Rahane (48, 117b, 6x4) followed him four overs later, pulling one off Josh Hazlewood (15-3-40-2) straight down the throat of Shaun Marsh at midwicket. Suddenly the India fans were again praying for help from above with their team on 142 for six after 55 overs, with the pressure on skipper MS Dhoni and R Ashwin to play out the remaining hour of play.
Those 60 minutes or rather 54 minutes were played out by Dhoni (24, 39b, 4x4) and Ashwin (8, 34b), with Australia skipper Steven Smith admitting defeat of picking up a win by calling off the match with four overs remaining.
Earlier, Shikhar why-on-earth-is-he-still-in-the-team Dhawan was the first to go, as Ryan Harris got him in just the eighth ball of the innings plumb lbw for a duck off a ball that tailed in.
Things got worse for India as KL Rahul (1, 5b), sent in at No.3 ahead of an out-of-form Cheteshwar Pujara, stayed in that T20 mode from the first innings again, going for a pull shot off a Mitchell Johnson short delivery outside off stump and managing only to top edge it to Shane Watson, who ran back from first slip to hold on. It's been a thoroughly awful Test debut for Rahul, and he will need to improve quickly or that Test career will fly away from him in a jiffy.
Murali Vijay was joined at the crease by Kohli, who was given the Class A Aussie sledging treatment by every single opponent on the field. A near-run out early on only exacerbated matters, with the Australian players surrounding Kohli, who had called them out in a press conference a couple of days ago.
However, those early jitters and tensions eased and Kohli and Vijay looked on course for another long fourth innings partnership only for that to be cut down by Kumar Dharmasena, who gave a poor decision to send the latter back into the pavilion.
An in-swinger from Josh Hazlewood struck Vijay on the pads and after a big appeal, Dharmasena raised that index finger when it was clear, in real time and in the replays, that the ball was going to miss leg stump by some distance.
Vijay (11, 28b) had to trudge on a forlorn figure, leaving India on 19 for three in 8.1 overs, before Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane (33, 68b, 5x4), the duo who put on 262 in the first innings, took India to Tea, with that target well out of their reach and another session to bat out to get the draw, which India eventually did.
Rain decided to take camp for a while at the MCG in the middle of the first over of the day -- almost as a sign that even Nature did not take kindly to Australia's decision to come in and bat again.
The delay was small, though, but it did give you the feeling of what might have been had Australia been a little more attacking in their declaration -- if Michael Clarke was the captain, for instance, there is absolutely no doubt that he would have declared overnight with the lead at 326.
Instead, Shaun Marsh and Ryan Harris, and then just before Lunch Nathan Lyon, batted on on the placid MCG pitch -- another reason behind Australia's decision to not declare -- and the India bowlers just went through their motions for 23 overs in the morning, a morning where the Aussies scored all of 57 runs for the loss of two wickets, with Harris (21, 68b) the first, out caught behind off the bowling of Mohammed Shami 20 minutes before Lunch.
The most exciting part of the first session was one tinged with drama and disappointment, involving Marsh. On the stroke of Lunch, Marsh finally cut loose, smashing R Ashwin for a six and a four to move to 98, before getting a single which took him to 99. A dab here, a dab there did not get him the single he wanted, and after five dot balls from Umesh Yadav, Marsh said, enough is enough, and ran a quick single to mid-off, allowing cannot-keep-him-out-of-the-game Kohli to hit the stumps directly and send Marsh back to the pavilion on that agonising 99 (99, 215b, 11x4, 2x6).
The more agonising part of the Marsh wicket was No.11 Josh Hazlewood coming in and with it the umpires deciding to extend the session by a half hour, but then, finally, Australia decided to declare at 318/9 for a lead of 383 runs.
Courtesy that strange neither-here-nor-there batting effort from Australia, though, the lead was taken beyond India, but more crucially from their point of view another couple of hours of play were whittled down, making it near impossible for India to chase down the total.
As aggressive as Kohli might want this India side to be, there was little to no chance of the team overhauling a target of nearly 400 runs in two sessions on a Day 5 pitch, something rookie skipper Steven Smith, who clearly has not taken a leaf out of Clarke's book, would have known as well.