India wraps up fiery series

Leading from the front, skipper Ajinkya Rahane led a counter attack as India coasted to the relatively small target of 106 just before lunch.

K. L. Rahul is over the moon after scoring the wining runs, which incidentally took him to his sixth half-century of the series.   -  AP

India signed off the long season with a finely-scripted win over Australia that gave the team a 2-1 series win and a number one ranking in Test cricket.

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The eight–wicket victory at the HPCA Stadium here came on the shoulders of K. L. Rahul’s half-century with Ajinkya Rahane fittingly monitoring the decisive moments in the middle, not to forget the two key members off the field – Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble, marshalling the team to give its best and regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

The win brought India a One Million Dollar bonus and the Mace for finishing as the number one team on the cut off date of April 1.

Resuming at 19 for no loss, India went through some contrived excitement when M. Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara lost their wickets. Vijay nicked Pat Cummins and Pujara ran himself out.

Did Australia sniff a chance? If it did, the idea was smashed by Rahul and Rahane applying themselves to ensure there was no end-of-the-season embarrassment in the shape of a defeat.

The 60-run third-wicket association between Rahul and Rahane was a culmination of a concentrated effort from India. Rahul did not lose his composure and played some exquisite shots in the process of accomplishing his sixth half-century of the series. Rahane, keen to make a mark, came up with a few robust strokes as India cantered to the target, needing a mere 17.5 runs to knock off the 87 runs needed for the win on Tuesday.

Australia’s chances best lay in making quick dents. It did but not to the extent the home team would falter. The poor second innings show on the third day had left Australia stunned and praying for a miracle. Skipper Steve Smith, however, lacked the firepower in his attack and only watched the disintegration from first slip, his dreams of beating India in India going up in smokes with every boundary that Rahul and Rahane cracked.

What stood out was a refreshing charge by Rahane as he played some astounding strokes off Cummins. He pulled him over square leg and then made room to smack him over cover, the two sixes driving home India’s dominance over an opposition that had begun the series on a sterling note at Pune by winning the Test with a whopping 333 run margin.

The 32-run first innings lead here was the impetus on which the victory march was built and some incisive bowling on the third day saw India flatten any hopes that Australia may have nurtured. The scorching spell from Umesh Yadav and crafty stuff from R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja paved the way for India to win its 10th Test of the home season – beating New Zealand 3-0, England 4-0, Australia 2-1 apart from the one-off Test triumph over Bangladesh. The two draws came against England andAustralia.

The parting comment from Smith summed up the cricket well in an intensely fought series, at times acrimonious: “I have been pretty intense throughout this series. I really wanted to do well for the team. At times I have been in my own bubble and have let my emotions slip. I apologise for that."