Down Under, India finishes on top for the first time

A persistent drizzle and bad light meant the fifth day’s play was called off. But had done enough in the last one month to score a historic a 2-1 series win and retain the Border Gavaskar Trophy

India's captain Virat Kohli celebrates with team-mates after retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy by clinching the Test series 2-1 in Sydney on Monday.   -  AFP

 

Their spirit shone bright on a murky day; much like headlights on an unlit highway.

This Indian team had been tactically slick, fought with commitment and passion, and accomplished what no Indian team had managed to achieve in 71 years.

Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

India had finally, after all these years of wait, agony and near misses, triumphed in a Test series in Australia. Indian cricket had broken through a monumental barrier.

Taste of success: India's captain Virat Kohli savours the moment after lifting the Border-Gavaskar trophy.   -  AFP

 

A persistent drizzle and bad light meant the fifth day’s play was called off at 2.30 p.m. local time at the SCG on Monday; Australia, following on 322 behind and six without loss in its second innings, was not forced to save the fourth Test.

India had retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a 2-1 verdict in the four-Test series. Down under, the Indians had kept their date with history.

In its relentlessly aggressive skipper Virat Kohli, obsessed with away Test victories, and coach Ravi Shastri, the side had two men who had instilled belief in the team to play winning cricket on pitches with more pace and bounce.

Shaking a leg: India's players rejoice with a dance after clinching the Test series.   -  Reuters

Kohli and his men were itching to go for a victory on Monday. But when a draw loomed and the play, rather inevitably, was abandoned in the afternoon, the Indians, putting aside the disappointment of the moment, entered the ground to celebrate a larger feat.

This was an iconic moment for Indian cricket and the cricketers ran towards a band of supporters in the stands who had braved inclement weather.

The cricketers led by Kohli and the pocket powerhouse Rishabh Pant, mimicked Cheteshwar Pujara’s style of running where he moves his arms only minimally, with a dance. Kohli said later, “Only Pujara did not dance!”

 

Yet, Pujara, adjudged Man of the Match and Player of the Series for his three hundreds and 521 runs in four Tests at 74. 42 had done everything else his skipper asked from him.

Pujara blunted the Australian attack at No.3 with a tight game, kept his concentration going for long periods, waited for the bowlers to bowl to his strengths and tired them out. The others batted around him.

READ: 'Kohli’s team raised the bar by winning the series'

Kohli added substance and class to the middle-order. And the exciting Rishabh Pant lent weight and muscle to the lower order.

Bumrah magic

Also in the mix, waltzing the Pujara moves, was paceman Jasprit Bumrah. He scalped 21 in the series, altered the course of matches with his unique action, movement, awkward bounce, speed and scorching yorkers.

He was the leader of a pace pack in which the bustling, skiddy and tireless Mohammed Shami sent down compelling spells of velocity and movement.

It’s true that Kohli’s men have not subdued the strongest Australian team.

In Pictures: From an early fumble to the maiden series win Down Under

The host was without its two primary batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner. And several strong Indian teams over the years had faced off with some formidable all-conquering Australian sides.

But then a team can only play against an opposition that is put up against it. And truth to tell, the Indian batsmen were facing a full-strength and highly rated Australian attack.

Bowling to a plan

The Indian pace bowlers, as coach Bharat Arun revealed, were clinical in their approach and bowled to a plan.

The Australians are strong with the cut and the pull and the Indian pacemen decided not to pitch short and serve them with deliveries for these strokes.

The idea was pitch it up around the off-stump and not get carried away by the additional bounce. The short ball was only employed as a weapon, particularly by Bumrah.

I always focus on consistency, says Bumrah

When the regular openers failed in the first two Tests, the team-management acted fast, bringing in Mayank Agarwal and promoting Hanuma Vihari to the top of the order.

Mayank was impressive with his footwork and balance and the determined Vihari got the job done.

India did not shy away from bold decisions. It took the series home...in Australia.

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