Bengaluru: The target for Australia near noon was clear. They needed 188 runs to win and a victory would ensure an unassailable 2-0 series lead and retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
On a psychological level, the win would be a massive morale boost after a season that began with a disappointing series loss to South Africa. If you think of it, the target wasn’t a massive one for Australia considering how they’ve applied themselves over the series. But then a rejuvenated India is a different ball game altogether. An India which desperately needs a win to stay in the series and keep the subsequent two Tests worth their money. But numbers say only four visiting teams have ever scored more than 188 runs in the fourth innings to win a Test in India.
An all-round and decisive show comprising all four bowlers – Ishant Sharma, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja – proved to be Australia’s undoing. But it was Ashwin who stood out amongst all with figures of 6/41. Virat Kohli never allowed Australia to settle down to the pace of one bowler or two with short spells for everyone involved. He also avoided the mistake from the first innings where Jadeja was sparsely used and yet came back with six wickets to his name.
This series has been defined by India’s collapses in the two Tests. It was 7/11 and 7/30 in Pune and then 6/33 and 6/36 in Bangalore. But then Australia suffered their own – an even worse with six wickets in 11 balls.
As Ashwin plucked a simple caught and bowled of his fellow spinner Nathan Lyon, the curtains were drawn and India had – out of nowhere – come back to win the match by 75 runs.
With pressure on both sides and the importance of this series very well known, things heated up with Steve Smith’s dismissal for 28 and visitor’s concerns continuing to see the scoreboard read 74/4. With the ball by Umesh staying low and umpire raising his finger for a leg-before, Smith asked his teammate Peter Handscomb at the non-striker’s end for advice on whether to take DRS or not. With no real conviction in Handscomb’s reply, Smith looked at the dressing room which irked an already pumped Kohli. Rules of DRS clearly say ‘signals from dressing room must not be given’. This exchange got heated despite the umpire intervention as Kohli called on the officials to have Smith walk back and the Aussie skipper, eventually, did.
Ashwin bagged his first with the important scalp of David Warner (17) adjudged lbw attempting a sweep shot. This leg before was reviewed and caused doubt in the mind of Australian batsmen. It proved costly when five overs later, the visitors were reluctant to review another decision when Shaun Marsh (9) was adjudged lbw by Umesh Yadav. And had they reviewed, it would have been all out.
At Tea, Australia were 101/6 with Mitchell Marsh and Matthew Wade both falling prey to Ashwin. Marsh was taken by Karun Nair as a close-in fielder and Wade fell to his compatriot Wriddhiman Saha picking up a sharp diving take.
Earlier, India suffered yet another collpase that saw six wickets fall in 36 runs to undo the heroics by Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara. India’s batting was undone by the pace duo of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood with the latter taking six wickets. This brought India’s innings to a close at 274 with India taking a 187 run lead.
Hazlewood and Starc made the most of the new ball with the Australian bowlers awarded the luxury of new SG ball for the first time in the series. The collapse began with Rahane’s leg before that was confirmed with a review. From then on, Nair, Pujara, Ashwin, Umesh went back in quick succession. Saha and Ishant put together 16 runs for the final wicket before the seamer was dismissed by Steve O’Keefe. With that, India had added 61 runs from their overnight score and lost six wickets in the period.