On an absorbing day of Test cricket when the Australians threatened to pull off an improbable draw at various stages of final day’s play, a relentless India scripted a six-wicket win to take a decisive 3-0 lead and wrest the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with the final Test to go in Delhi.
The famous Aussie fighting spirit finally made its appearance but it was perhaps too late in the day.
Starting Monday’s final day on a shaky 75/3 in their second innings, still 16 runs adrift of India’s first innings total of 499 all out, the Australian innings wobbled and recovered before coming to a halt at 223 all out in 89.2 overs in front of a sparse gathering at the PCA Stadium.
Needing 133 runs from a minimum of 27 overs to win the third Test and the series, India made heavy weather of their task before reaching 136/4 in 33.3 overs with 2.3 mandatory overs to spare.
While there was little doubt about India crossing the line, they provided a touch of drama to their chase by stretching the game to the wire. The needless run out of Sachin Tendulkar following his 33-ball 13-run partnership with a sluggish Dhoni added some excitement to the proceedings. With 17 needed from 3.3 overs, Ravindra Jadeja slammed Peter Siddle for two fours in three balls to ease the pressure. Clearly out of his depth against the reverse-swinging deliveries from Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle, Dhoni finally found his belligerence smacking Starc for three consecutive fours in the 34th over of the innings signalling celebrations in the stands.
With the man of the match Shikhar Dhawan, who set up the game for India with his blistering 187, ruled out from batting after hurting his fingers on his left hand while fielding during Australia’s second innings on Sunday, Cheteshwar Pujara opened the innings with M Vijay and the two provided an ideal start with a 42-run stand. However, the departures of Vijay, Pujara, Virat Kohli and Tendulkar might have raised some doubts in the home camp before Jadeja banished them all.
While it was Dhawan who made the result possible despite the first day being washed out, equal credit should go to all the five bowlers for bowling Australia out twice in just under six sessions. Ishant Sharma was impressive in the first innings and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, like in the Aussie first innings at Hyderabad, made early inroads for spinners to prey on Aussie batsmen in the second. R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and the returning Pragyan Ojha shared responsibility and spoils in a total team work.
Biggest win ever
This is India’s biggest victory ever — in terms of number of matches won in a series — over Australia and it gives the hosts a bright chance to make a 4-0 sweep of the series. The last time when the Aussies travelled here in 2010, India had won both the Test matches before crashing to a 0-4 defeat Down Under last year.
Having lost three top-order batsmen on the penultimate evening itself, it was always going to be an uphill task for Australia to save the match, especially with their skipper Michael Clarke battling a recurring back injury. If Australia were to have to a realistic chance of escaping with a draw, their overnight half-centurion Phil Hughes (69) had to play a big hand.
The 24-year-old, all aggression on Sunday, needed a more prudent approach coming into the final day. Evidently, he was cautious and in the company of a visibly uncomfortable Clarke, defied the Indian attack for close to an hour before the visiting skipper fell for the fifth time in the series to Jadeja to a debatable decision. The left-arm spinner celebrated the dismissal signalling ‘five’ but replays were inconclusive when umpire Richard Kettleborough sought TV umpire Sudhir Asnani’s help to find out if the delivery was a no-ball.
Hughes, not used to playing the waiting game against spinners, was struggling after shunning aggression. This followed another poor decision from umpire Aleem Dar, who adjudged Hughes leg-before off Ashwin when the ball was missing the leg by a fair distance.
Soon, Jadeja had Moises Henriques beautifully caught and bowled while Ojha knocked over Peter Siddle’s off-stump with a ripper. Brad Haddin and Mitchell Starc forged another gutsy partnership but the final act of defiance came from Starc and Xavier Doherty who not only frustrated the Indians for over an hour but managed to rattle some runs for the 10th wicket to set the home team a tricky target, though not an unachievable one.