Australia tried in vain to delay the inevitable at Jamtha as Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja made sure their teammates got two additional days off and a 1-0 lead in the current iteration of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Australia was bundled out for a paltry 91 – its lowest away total against India - in a second innings that was merely 131-minutes-long and ended before tea could be taken on day three. The host won by an innings and 132 runs.
In an anti-climactic end, a no-ball by Jadeja ended up doing a better job of delaying India’s imminent victory than a lot of Australian batters. The game had to go on for 1.2 overs more when the dismissal of Steve Smith was ruled out after Jadeja had overstepped. Four of Australia’s 11 batters couldn’t even survive that long!
On Saturday, eventual Player-of-the-Match Jadeja (22-8-47-5 & 12-3-34-2), who returned with five wickets in the first innings, was happy to share the spotlight with Ashwin (15.5-2-42-3 & 12-3-37-5) who came off with his own fifer while bowling all his overs from the North End in the second essay. It was the third five-for of the game, with Australian debutant Todd Murphy finishing with seven wickets earlier.
This was Ashwin’s 31st five-wicket haul in an innings; the last had come 11 matches back against England in Ahmedabad in 2021.
With this feat, Ashwin, India’s second-highest wicket-taker in Tests, equalled Anil Kumble’s record for the most fifers in India – 25.
Usman Khawaja survived six deliveries more compared to his brief first innings stint when Australia walked out to bat after Lunch. The opener’s stay was cut short by Ashwin with Virat Kohli taking a sharp catch at slip.
Next, World No. 1 Test batter Marnus Labuschagne (17, 28b, 3x4), nestling deep in his crease, was trapped plumb in front by Jadeja.
Meanwhile, David Warner’s (10, 41b, 2x4) struggles against Ashwin continued as the wily off-spinner had the burly Aussie rooted to his crease and sent him back for the 11 th time in 19 Test innings. Warner’s average against Ashwin in the longest format now stands at a mere 17.45!
Matt Renshaw’s promotion to No. 5 backfired again as the left-handed batter, unsure whether to play for the straighter ball or the turning one, ended up obstructing the off-stump.
Ashwin’s very next over saw the 36-year-old pocket another wicket as Peter Handscomb was hit on his pad in front of the leg-stump.
Ashwin’s fifer came in 10 overs as Alex Carey (10, 6b, 2x4), while attempting to reverse-sweep, was dismissed leg-before.
While Jadeja removed Australian captain Pat Cummins, Axar Patel too joined the party with the softest of dismissals that had Rohit take his 50 th catch in Tests to see the back of Todd Murphy. The ball, which slowed down after pitching, was chipped on to short midwicket as mere catching practice.
Mohammad Shami did the final honours and snipped off the tail, dismissing Nathan Lyon and Scott Boland with the ball shaping into the batters on both occasions.
Axar, Jadeja and Shami provide late boost
Earlier, Axar (84, 174b, 10x4, 1x6) missed out on what would have been his maiden ton in First Class cricket.
Axar used his reach to step out and meet the ball that had started to turn. He was also using the breadth of the crease well to defend effectively against the spinners. He saw through Murphy’s ploy of throwing in the slower one in repetitive patterns after three faster deliveries.
After Jadeja (70, 185b, 9x4) was left stunned by a Murphy delivery that almost turned square to knock his pole off, Shami (37, 47b, 2x4, 3x6) decided to take the attack to the 22-year-old Victorian. He slog-swept Murphy for a six immediately after some confusion ensued on the field following a minute-long glitch in the Spydercam. The players and on-field umpires were caught staring hard at the camera as it hung lifeless across the West Wing of the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium even as Shami signalled he was ready to carry on.
Less than six overs later, Shami hit Murphy for two back-to-back maximums. One of those, which came off a golfer’s swing, received a lot of appreciation from the crowd that got up on its feet and cheered.
Murphy, however, had the last laugh when he set up Shami with flatter and quicker deliveries from around the wicket. The angle of release and trajectory gave Shami less room to work with and he ended up miscuing a shot.
With the exception of Murphy, the rest of the Australian unit looked pedestrian in the Nagpur chapter of the 2023 BGT. Come next Friday, the visitors will look to start afresh at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi as another slip will see them lose the top Test ranking to India.
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