India finish with a flourish

Cricket Fourth Test : Hosts crush Australia by eight wickets to pocket bitterly-contested series 2-1

India finish with a flourish

 As KL Rahul completed the winning run, he let out a guttural scream in front of the dressing rooms. That’s what this eight-wicket victory over Australia meant for India. It was among the most fiercely-contested series in the recent cricket history, and the relevance of its triumph went beyond mere statistics.

India took the series 2-1 at the scenic venue, hosting its first Test, on Tuesday and with it reclaimed the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. India had bounced back in Bengaluru to level the series and came here after a draw in Ranchi to raise the stakes in the fourth and final contest.

Needing 106 to win, India began the day at 19/0 and reached the finishing line comfortably as Rahul (51 n.o.), with his sixth half-century of the series, and stand-in-captain Ajinkya Rahane (38 n.o.), donning the mantle of an aggressor, stitched an unbeaten 60 runs partnership to anchor India to victory in the first session itself.

Captain Virat Kohli, who missed the match due to a shoulder injury, was delighted with the team’s performance. “I jerked my shoulder four times yesterday celebrating outside. So that’s how much energy I had and I couldn’t sit in the change room. It was difficult watching from the outside when you have been in the thick of things all the time for past so many years.

“But the most pleasing thing is when you see guys taking the responsibility in your absence and actually going out there to play one of the best ever Test matches that as a viewer you can see.”

During the engaging four days India made the decisive push towards victory on Monday by first taking a 32 runs first innings lead and then skittling Australia for 137 in the second innings.

In between India lost Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara in the same over to trigger a mild panic. Vijay fell to a brilliant spell of bowling by Pat Cummins, the Indian opener edging the ball that held its line and Matthew Wade making no mistake. Five balls later Pujara ran himself out. He pushed the ball to point, darted without even looking at Rahul. Midway Pujara hesitated, and by the time he restarted his journey to the crease, Glenn Maxwell from point had hit the stumps.

If Australia sensed an opening, Rahul and Rahane shut out their hopes with confident strokeplay.  Rahul played with maturity, and Rahane attacked, even smashing Cummins for two back to back sixes, to accelerate the Indian march.

The winning runs came from Rahul as he crossed his half-century. The young opener from Karnataka let out a war cry as he celebrated the moment to bring down the curtains on perhaps the most intensly fought series in recent times.

Ravindra Jadeja, who took four wickets in the match besides the crucial 63 runs in the first innings, was named the man of the match and man of the series. He and R Ashwin broke the Australian back, after Umesh Yadav continued to impress with his incisive spell. Not to forget the dream performance of Test debutant Kuldeep Yadav in the first innings when he plotted the Australian downfall.

The contest also brought to an end India’s long and successful home season of 13 Tests, beginning with New Zealand and followed by England, Bangladesh and Australia. India won 10 matches and drew two, one each against England and Australia. They suffered their lone defeat against Australia, in the first Test in Pune.

“It is a very proud moment. We have played good cricket all season, and in the home season we dominated all of it. It was very important for a young side to do so and build a team for the future,” Kohli said.

score board

Australia (I innings): 300 all out
India (I innings): 332 all out
Australia (II innings): 137 all out
India (II innings; O/n: 19/0):
Rahul (not out)    51
(110m, 76b, 9x4)
Vijay c Wade b Cummins    8
(61m, 35b)
Pujara (run out)    0
(5m, 5b)
Rahane (not out)    38
(43m, 27b, 4x4, 2x6)
Extras (B-4, LB-5)    9
Total (2 wkts; 23.5 overs, 111m)    106
Fall of wickets: 1-46 (Vijay), 2-46 (Pujara).
Bowling: Cummins 8-2-42-1, Hazlewood 6-2-14-0, O’Keefe 4.5-1-22-0, Lyon 5-0-19-0.

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