India 250 (Pujara 123) and 307 (Pujara 71, Rahane 70, Lyon6-122) beat Australia 235 (Head 72) and 291 (S Marsh 60) by 31 runs
Had it done enough to be classed as nerve-jangling? It was certainly engrossing. A wonderful Test match. India secured their first Test victory in Australia since 2008 and lead a series in the country for only the second time after a gripping 31-run win in Adelaide.
Their quicks led the way on the final day, breaking through each time a partnership was threatening to develop, with Jasprit Bumrah providing the bulk of the key moments. But Australia’s last wicket pair of Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood got it down to needing 32 to win when, on the brink of a delayed tea, Hazlewood drove at R Ashwin and edged low to second slip. Elation everywhere for India, pain for Australia but, when they reflect, pride as well.
It always felt the target was out of reach, but the last three wickets added 104 to ensure India could never be sure. Shaun Marsh, the focus of much attention after his first-innings continued a run a single-figure scores, played very well for his 60 and Tim Paine battled hard, but both fell to Bumrah who then returned to shift the stubborn Pat Cummins when Australia’s lower order was showing plenty of bottle.
Rishabh Pant equalled the world record of 11 dismissals in a match, but for a little while it appeared one that escaped – when Lyon edged Bumrah on 7 – looked like it might come back to haunt him as Lyon produced one of his finest Test innings. The tension was starting to show on India when Ashwin was finally rewarded after a final day of toil: never had an India bowler sent down as many overs in the fourth innings of a Test.
Australia resumed the final day on 4 for 104, still needing a distant 219, and had only added another 11 when Travis Head was removed by a superbly-directed short ball from Ishant Sharma which he could only fend into the slips. It was the perfect length, leaving the batsman unsure whether to play the ball or sway out of the line.
The first of the day’s mini-stands then began to form between Marsh and Paine, but all the runs continued to be a grind against a disciplined attack. Marsh went to his fifty off 146 balls, his first in the fourth innings of a Test, before being defeated by Bumrah’s line from round the wicket and feathering a catch to Pant.
Despite all his catches, Pant’s glovework certainly remains a work in progress and with a better technique might have got closer to Paine’s gloved pull on 7 which flew fine down the leg side. Australia’s captain made it through to lunch alongside Cummins, but could not go much further when he top-edged a pull to the first ball of the second over after the break.
At that point, Australia needed 136 and any modicum of tension seemed a long way off. However, Cummins and Starc got the target down into double figures, the former playing a largely defensive role while the latter produced a few more shots. Again, though, just as thoughts were turning to what could happen India struck, Starc edging a big drive against Mohammed Shami for Pant’s record-equalling catch.
Still Australia did not fold, this time Cummins and Lyon chipping away. Cummins was just showing signs of coming out of his shell, having passed 100 deliveries faced – driving Shami powerfully on the up through the covers – when he edged a drive off Bumrah which was taken at first slip by Virat Kohli, the India captain hurling the ball to ground with a look of thunder on his face.
With just one wicket to fall, the odds were stacked against Australia but a few little things started to go their way: Ishant over-stepped when Lyon might have been given lbw on 32 and edges started to fly wide of the slips. Ashwin had rarely been attacked by the Australia batsman, but the last-wicket pair were nullifying him effectively. One delivery jumped at Hazlewood, took the shoulder of the bat and evaded the field. Surely not? And in the it wasn’t. From around the wicket, Ashwin pushed one full, encouraged the drive, and KL Rahul took a sharp catch inches off the turf.
The marker has been laid for this series. It promises much more.