'Lots of fun' getting to 99 - Starc
Mitchell Starc has described his innings of 99 as "lots of fun", despite the agony of falling one run short of a Test century. Starc came within touching distance of becoming the first Australian in more than 65 years to score a Test hundred batting from No.9 or below, but instead he edged behind off Ishant Sharma.
Starc smiled to himself as he walked off the field, disappointed at the missed opportunity but pleased at the fact that he was able to contribute so much to Australia's batting effort. Starc said he was nervous once triple-figures came within sight and hoped it wouldn't be his only chance to register a Test century.
"I was just enjoying it up until I got out," Starc said. "At the start of the day I was just hanging around for hopefully Steve Smith to get a ton. Unfortunately he didn't get there and that was just a lot of fun to play the way I liked to (after Smith's dismissal) and play my shots. To fall one short is disappointing and hopefully I can get another chance one day. I felt a bit nervous and it probably felt a bit harder ... when you get to 99. It's something I can learn from and I'm still happy I got that far"
After the departure of Smith for 92, Starc became the architect of Australia's lower-order run scoring and added 51 in a ninth-wicket partnership with Nathan Lyon. He was helped by the defensive captaincy of MS Dhoni, who at times pushed as many as six men back onto the boundary to gift Starc singles - although sometimes he pinched twos - and get Lyon on strike.
Lyon, who had batted for 85 minutes in the second innings in Chennai, was untroubled by the plan and it was only when Starc reached 99 that Dhoni put pressure on him by bringing the field in. That led to a series of plays and misses against Ishant as Starc tried to force the ball through the infield and in the end he edged low to the left of Dhoni.
"It doesn't happen too often," Starc said of the field being back for a lower-order batsman like himself. "The way he [Dhoni] captains is probably pretty reactive so if I play my shots he's going to push them back. I just enjoyed the moment being out there with the bat."
Starc was willing to go over the top earlier in his innings, including one especially handsome chip over the head of the bowler Ishant for four. He didn't thrash the ball like he did during his 68 not out from 43 balls against South Africa in Perth, but rather showed a wide range of more conventional strokes that suggest he will be an especially useful lower-order player for Australia in future.
"I've got a couple [of hundreds] in club cricket games, but it's a bit different playing Test cricket. Hopefully I get a chance to get back there one day," Starc said. "I enjoy batting, growing up as a kid I was a wicketkeeper, so I'd like to think I can hold a stick and be able to score a few runs if need be. All the bowlers work hard on our batting, we put a bit of emphasis on our tail scoring runs and we did that in this innings."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here