Australia and India shared the honours in the third cricket test, but both sides insisted they banked the moral victory ahead of the series decider in Dharamsala.

The intense four-test series, level at 1-1, will come down to five days of cricket starting on Saturday, perhaps fewer if the picturesque venue at the foot of the Himalayas produces a raging turner.

Australia salvaged a draw in Ranchi thanks to a game-changing partnership between Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh.

The stand started in Monday's morning session when Steve Smith, the most important brick in Australia's stonewall, failed to play a shot and was clean-bowled by Ravindra Jadeja. The tourists were in dire straits at 63-4.

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It ended with the visitors sitting pretty at 187-5 in the final session, needing only to avoid the most cataclysmic of collapses. They did, with Handscomb finishing 72 not out.

"If there's anything called momentum in cricket it's probably with us at the moment," Smith said.

"India coming here today would have expected to bowl us out. I'm sure they're hurting a little bit."

India's captain Virat Kohli naturally had a different take, applauding his team for seizing control of the contest after Australia won the toss and posted 451 in their first innings.

"Everyone has his point of view. We will look at our positives and we are happy with where we brought the game to after just one innings," Kohli said. "We didn't need to bat in the second innings. They had to play for a draw."

Australia's four frontline bowlers will be closely monitored during a short turnaround. They toiled for some 210 overs in India's marathon first innings during the third test.

In terms of a single test innings, it was a career-high workload for Josh Hazlewood (44 overs), Pat Cummins (39 overs) and Steve O'Keefe (77 overs). Nathan Lyon delivered 46 overs and was clearly bothered by the cracked callus on his spinning finger.

- AAP