Australia skipper Tim Paine admitted a draw in the third Test at Sydney was “tough to swallow” and rued his series of dropped catches as India escaped defeat in the third Test Monday.

India started day five on 98/2 but despite losing Ajinkya Rahane in the second over, they batted out the day to finish on 334/5 – helped by Paine’s three dropped catches behind the stumps.

Paine dropped two catches of Rishabh Pant, who made a fluent 97 and raised hopes of an Indian win, and then dropped one of Hanuma Vihari, who remained unbeaten on 23 and ensured that the game ended in a draw along with Ravichandran Ashwin (39 not out).

“We were pretty confident, no doubt, with our attack,” Paine said.

“I thought we’d certainly created enough chances to win the game, and we did, so it’s a tough one to swallow, particularly given my situation. I thought our bowlers were superb all day, Nathan (Lyon) tried everything, the quicks were awesome,” he added.

“Obviously the dropped catches have played a part in the result. Probably going both ways to be far. But I am bitterly disappointed, I pride myself on my wicketkeeping. Haven’t had too many worse days than that today,” Paine said at the virtual post-match press conference.

“It’s a horrible feeling knowing our fast bowlers and our spinner (Nathan Lyon) bowled their hearts out and gave everything to the team. I certainly feel I let them down.

“I have to wear that, but I’ll get another crack at it next week so move on,” said the wicket-keeper referring to the fourth and final Test in Brisbane.

The result means the series remains 1-1 heading into the final Test at Brisbane later this week, a ground where Australia have a formidable record.

Paine also had a verbal duel with Ashwin, while the Indian off-spinner was batting. The Australian skipper said it was all a part of the game.

“There was a bit of by-play going on. They were wasting a bit of time, we were getting a bit frustrated, we let him know, he had a bit of say back and again it’’s all part of the game. No harm done,” the 36-year-old maintained.

Paine said his team had yet to play to its full potential after winning in Adelaide by eight wickets before India clinched victory in Melbourne by the same margin.

“We didn’t play our best in Adelaide or Melbourne to be fair, I thought in this Test match we showed glimpses of our best,” he said.

“We are certainly back closer to where we want to be as a batting group... I think there were some positive signs, and our bowlers tried their hearts out and created plenty of chances.

“So I thought today was a wholehearted effort from the boys and things just didn’t quite go our way.”

But there were encouraging signs for Australia with Steve Smith back to form with scores of 131 and 81, debutant Will Pucovski’s 62 and a sparkling 84 from fellow rookie Cameron Green.

“Will started his first Test well with a half-century, we saw real glimpses of how good he can be,” said Paine.

“Cameron has been showing it all series and I thought yesterday afternoon he was absolutely sensational to put us in a position to get a long way ahead in the game and set up that declaration.”

According to the Australia skipper, India deserved the result as they fought hard.

“Well, obviously, we wanted to win the game. I thought we created enough chances to do so, wouldn’t say it’s deflating, thought there were a lot of positives out of the game and it was an awesome game of Test cricket.

“Thought India fought hard like we knew they would. Clearly, we are disappointed not to get a win but thought there were some good signs for us after the Melbourne Test” he added.

According to Paine, the surface did not deteriorate as much as he thought, but still called the Sydney wicket a good one for the game.

“...didn’t quite break up as much as you expect for an SCG. Still think it was a pretty good Test wicket, balls dropping in everywhere today, catches dropped, so plenty of chances created.

“We were good enough to get over the line and India fought really hard and deserved the result,” he added.

“I thought he (Pant) played an amazing innings, he played some superb shots, we know he’s got that in him. He’s a huge talent, but we also know he gives you chances and we just had to hold on to one.

“Thought it was a great innings, we bowled pretty well to him, but at no stage did we have that feeling, we thought we had plenty on the board. Either we’d win or it would be a draw,” he said.

With AFP and PTI Inputs