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India retains Border-Gavaskar Trophy


India needed just 4.3 overs to take the final two wickets after a rain delay in the Boxing Day Test at MCG. The Australians were hoping to be saved from the rain on the final day with just two wickets left at the end of the fourth day – but that was not to be – India did a clinical job by dismissing Cummins and Lyon to take a 2-1 lead in the series and retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

An exuberant Virat Kohli defying gravity, leapt in the air like an Olympic high jumper and the teammates joined him hugging each other. Ishant Sharma bounced at Nathan Lyon, the batsman attempted a hook, and a gleeful ’keeper Rishabh Pant held the top-edge. Australia’s nemesis, India’s premier bowler Jasprit Bumrah, complete with his unorthodox action and skidding deliveries, has a series high 20 wickets at 14.65, including match figures of 9-86 off 34.5 overs at the MCG. His ability to extract swing, particularly with the old ball, has been pivotal in Australia’s demise. Bumrah’s maiden year in international cricket has been nothing short of amazing, finishing with 48 wickets at 21 – the most by any Indian in his first year at the elite level. Ranked the world’s best bowler in one-day international cricket, Bumrah was held back from the redball game, but his determination to succeed was evident when selected for the South African tour.

The Melbourne Indians warmed up to the occasion with the opening Boxing Day drawing a record crowd of over seventy thousand of which more than 75% were Indian supporters. The whole arena was filled with emotions when the Indian Captain walked out to toss. Later on the fifth day the MCG was once again overflowing with emotions. The Indians, both relieved and joyous, celebrated a famous overseas win, the chanting of its supporters and the beating of the dhols grew louder. The fans were not worried of the inclement weather, they were in their usual self - singing and dancing to cheer their team even when no play was possible in the frustrating prelunch session on day five owing to drizzle and rain.

India’s last Test victory at the iconic MCG came way back in 1981 when Sunil Gavaskar’s team, inspired by Kapil Dev, overcame Australia by 59 runs. Kohli’s men kept their date with destiny. When play commenced on the last day, Jasprit Bumrah, always dangerous, got one to deviate away from Pat Cummins (63) and Cheteshwar Pujara snaffled a sharp catch at first slip. With nine scalps in the Test — including a sixwicket haul in the first innings that broke the back of the Aussie batting and put India on course — Bumrah was adjudged Man-of-the-Match. No Indian paceman has more wickets than Bumrah’s nine in a single Test in Australia. The annihilation given by the man from Gujarat had the Aussies concerned about future of Test cricket in Australia.

This was the 11th overseas Test victory for Kohli, putting him on level terms with path-breaking India captain Sourav Ganguly. And Pant, even as he is busy motivating the bowlers and getting under the skin of the opposition with his comments, now has 20 dismissals in the series (all catches) the most by an Indian wicketkeeper in a Test series.

Australia was no match for India in all departments – bowling, batting or fielding. Even off the field India showed its superiority by some meticulous and calculated planning. The way India read the pitch and decided to apply themselves in the first innings was such a strategic and calculated move which baffled all the so the called experts – including Ian Chappell and Shane Warne. They called it ridiculous when Kohli and Pujara played more than 600 dot balls in a manner that not only frustrated the Australian team but also its fans. Pujara played for eight hours, 319 balls for his majestic century while Kohli, normally a dasher, played a superb calm innings – 5 hours, 204 balls for his 82 runs. Their partnership was worth 170 runs, and more importantly a massive 63 overs – breaking the back of Australian bowling. Lots of credits are due to the new opening combination of Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari who batted for 18.5 overs to blunt the new Kookaburra ball and make it easier for the rest. Mayank, so compact and well organised in both offence and defence, was a revelation on debut. He has the temperament to match his footwork. What was amazing is that Indians read the pitch better than their hosts. The Indian batsmen assessed the pitch extremely well, applied themselves and batted long. They knew the surface would deteriorate. Unfortunately it did not to the extent they expected. But the world class bowlers dismantled the Australians with precision and ease.

As expected the Australian captain came with excuses blaming everything for the comprehensive defeat. Tim Paine reluctantly acknowledged that India put the match out of Australia’s reach. Kohli could foresee what others did not – that a pitch so universally condemned on days one and two would come into its own. It was the comeback of the season. Kohli admitted that India focused on this. It was why his team was so intent on making 400 first innings runs, even if they had to do it in the manner of pulling teeth. It proved astute.

The country’s cricket fraternity, led by Sachin Tendulkar, hailed the Indian team’s comprehensive victory over Australia in the third Test in Melbourne, terming it an incredible effort and one to be cherished for a long time. “Incredible effort by #TeamIndia to take a 2-1 lead, especially @Jaspritbumrah93 who has played an instrumental role in this win. He has gone from strength to strength in all formats of the game. Definitely one of the best in the world today,” Tendulkar tweeted.

Batting great VVS Laxman said all the 11 players contributed to the win. “37 years 10 months ago was the last time India won a test at the MCG, none of the players from either sides were born. This win is one to savour & cherish for a long time and a perfect end to 2018 for Team India. Each player can be very proud of their contribution to this win,” Laxman tweeted. Australian Mitchell Johnson tweeted: “India just to good in all departments this Test, well done 2-1 to India means Australia will need to fight in Syd to stop India winning the series. Enjoy your New Years.”

Australia will hurt no less in this defeat by the fact that they must have seen it coming. In terms of the Border-Gavaskar trophy, the fourth Test is now dead.


Sports News By

Srinivasan


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