India clinched a historic series win Down Under at the Sydney Cricket Ground as they beat Australia 2-1 to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. In the process, they finally broke the duck, winning the first Test series in Australia and also the first in SENA countries (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) in nine years. Captain Virat Kohli has etched his name in the annals of Indian cricket history with this special win. It was a fantastic series competed in great spirit. There was patience, aggression, and banter on display right through the series. We take you through the exhilarating ride that Australia vs India 2018-19 Test series was.
Adelaide: Pujara's patience, Lyon's fight, Australia's frustration
We could not have asked for a better start to the series. Both India and Australia rode in a roller-coaster throughout the match. On the last day, when it appeared India will win it easily, it went down the wire. India got off to the best possible start, winning the toss, but their happiness was short-lived as the openers - KL Rahul and Murali Vijay - were back in the hut inside the first seven overs after Kohli elected to bat. Cheteshwar Pujara brought calmness in the innings after the Australian pace-bowling storm took away Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane inside the first 20 overs. He built small partnerships with lower middle order which propelled India to 250. A brilliant innings of 123 was brought to an end by a fantastic piece of fielding from Pat Cummins as he ran the Saurashtra batsman out with a direct hit.
In reply, Australia too stuttered at the start and were 87/4 before Peter Handscomb (34) and Travis Head (72) stabilised things somewhat. The visitors kept chipping with wickets at regular intervals until they came up against their perennial nemesis - the tail. From 127/6, Australia managed 235 as the last four added 108 runs. Ravichandran Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah were the pick of the bowlers with three wickets each.
With a slender lead of 15, Kohli (34) and Pujara (71) played the patience game in the 2nd innings before Rahane (70) accelerated proceedings to set Australia a target of 323 runs. The trio batted well knowing that the Adelaide pitch was suffering wear and tear. Nathan Lyon bowled with great control to scalp a six-for, while Mitchell Starc looked his old self, dismantling the tail.
One would have thought that 323 was enough on a wearing pitch and for a while, it seemed so as Ashwin, Bumrah and Mohammed Shami sent half the Australian side back in the hut, for 115. However, Shaun Marsh held fort and scored 60, adding crucial little partnerships with Head and Tim Paine.
Just when it looked like Australia were slowly getting back into the game, Bumrah broke the Marsh-Paine stand, sending back the left-hander to hut. Paine (40) then took over the anchor's role and added 31 with Cummins. Another partnership was starting to frustrate but Bumrah was at it again as he sent back the Australian captain with 136 more needed to win. With the last recognised batsman back in the hut, one felt the end was near for Australia. But they fought. Starc (28) and Cummins (28) added 41 and brought the target below 100 runs. But then, Starc, for some unfathomable reasons, went for the glory shot off Shami and found himself caught behind.
Surely India should seal this quickly now, the mind said. However, Australia weren't just going to give up. Cummins and Lyon added another 31 runs. By this time nerves had slowly started to creep in. Cummins looked solid and if there was one bowler who would have broken his resolve, it was Bumrah. The Gujarat pacer again answered his captain's call to remove Cummins.
With 64 more needed, Lyon took forward the fight from Cummins as he launched a counter-attack with Hazlewood at the other end. The pair added 32 runs before Ashwin, who had done a really good job of holding at one end, tossed a lovely off-spinner up and enticed Hazlewood into a drive. The ball kissed the outside edge and KL Rahul at first slip, pouched a very good reflex catch. Kohli set off in wild celebrations and India were 1-0 up but not without a fight from the hosts. It was India's first ever win in the first match of a series in Australia.
It was a cracker, one that made Ravi Shastri's body defy laws of physiology.
Perth: Kohli belts out masterclass but India get caught in Perth's fast lane by Superman Lyon
It was time for Perth now where all the excitement was built around how the pitch at the new Optus Stadium would behave after a shift from the traditional WACA. Will it live up to expectations? Will it be as fast as the WACA? The questions kept floating. The curator promised pace and bounce, leaving plenty of grass on the wicket. India took the gamble of going with an all-out pace attack while Australia went in with the same combination. Amidst all this, Paine won the toss and elected to bat. A brave decision was backed by the openers - Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch - who put on 112 on a lively track. Australia posted a competitive 326. The absence of a spinner was felt by India and more so after Lyon, turned up in his Superman attire again to skittle India out for 283, scalping 5/67 and help Australia achieve a crucial 43-run lead.
Kohli did play a masterclass of 123 but as always, apart from Rahane, didn't get the support he always craves for. In reply, the Aussie openers started well again before Mohammed Shami, in second innings, went rampant with six-wickets to rattle the top and middle order with a lethal spell of fast bowling. However, Usman Khawaja (72) showed composure along with Paine (37) and the pair added 72 runs. That partnership was in a way the turning point. The tail frustrated India again as Australia set a target of 287. It was always going to be difficult on a pitch which was still lively.
India needed a solid platform but the openers disappointed yet again. The pacers scythed through the batting line-up, well supported by Lyon to pull off a convincing victory by 146 runs. It was a strong reply from Australia that had won its first Test after the Sandpaper gate and Paine's first as Australia captain. Bodies brushed, words were spoken from behind the stumps and tempers flared (Jadeja-Ishant spat), and suddenly it was all happening at the Optus stadium.
Melbourne: India bounce back as Bumrah stings hard while Pujara kills softly
Boxing Day Tests are always special. At the MCG, it's somewhat extra special. India hadn't won a Boxing Day Test in Australia. And amidst myriad problems, the question was, can they bounce back?
Well, for the first time, India got their selection right. Rahul and Vijay were benched. Mayank Agarwal was flown in, to replace injured Prithvi Shaw. Kohli won the toss and decided to bat on a pitch that had a tinge of green, but was dry underneath. The openers saw off the first hour. Something that Rahul and Vijay regularly did...inside the dressing room. Agarwal shone on debut with 76. Pujara (106 off 319 balls) and Kohli (82 off 204 balls) then took the slow route on a pitch where batting wasn't easy. They batted time and added 170 from 409 balls. Ricky Ponting thought Pujara was too slow and it would cost his team the match. India declared at 443/7. The Australian bowlers were made to toil for 169.4 overs.
Was a lot of time wasted by the Indians? Were they too slow? Well, the questions were answered in the next 67 overs as Bumrah went rampant (6/33) to bundle out Australia for 151. Kohli had the choice to enforce the follow-on but he didn't. Probably, he wanted to give his bowlers rest and ground Australia down.
India were 292 runs ahead and it looked as if it would be a walk-in-the-park for the visitors from thereon. But Pat Cummins came out firing on all cylinders and set an example for the rest as he scalped 6/27 in a fiery spell of fast bowling. India, though, were never going to get into serious trouble after achieving a mammoth lead. They declared at 106/8 and set Australia 399 runs to win.
It was always going to be tough for the hosts. And things got messier when Finch and Harris departed inside the first 10 overs. The middle order offered some resistance but was undone by Bumrah's guile, Ishant's aggression, and Jadeja's accuracy. Cummins (61), however, did not throw in the towel. He toiled hard and took the match to the fifth day and with a forecast of rain, there was a glimmer of hope for Australia.
To the delight of the Australian fans, it did rain on the fifth day and the first session was washed out. However, it all cleared up soon and it took the Indian bowlers just 27 balls to break Australia's resistance and make sure the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was not going away.
Sydney: Calm Pujara, measured Pant hit the final nail in the coffin
History beckoned India at the Sydney Cricket Ground. A win or a draw would give them a historic first Test series win on the Australian soil. It didn't start off well for Kohli. There were chaos and uncertainties, Ishant was injured. Ashwin was not declared 100 percent fit in the pre-match press conference but two hours later, he was included in the 13-man squad. KL Rahul got another opportunity as Rohit Sharma had flown back to attend his wife and newborn baby. Vihari would be pushed back to six again. The Indian captain named three spinners in the squad - Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav. Two played for the first time in the same match on the tour, Jadeja and Yadav.
Slowly things started going right. Kohli won the toss again, a significant step towards the series win, and he had no hesitation in batting first. There was a minor blip as KL Rahul flopped, again. Agarwal took a positive approach en route to his 77 off 112 balls. Pujara (193) then batted and batted and batted. With help from Rishabh Pant (159 not-out), they together batted Australia out of the match as India amassed 622/7 (d). It was the second time in three innings that Australia were forced to take the third new ball. They were tired and the Indian batsmen piled on the misery. There was no way back for the Aussies from there. Yadav is the third-choice spinner but he bowled like a first-choice one and came back to torment the Aussie batsmen who he had bamboozled two years ago on his debut in Dharamsala. After the Lord's disappointment last year, Kuldeep went back to the drawing board and worked hard with his coach Kapil Dev Pandey. The hard work paid off as he scalped his first five-for in Tests away from home. The Aussies fell 222 runs behind and Kohli had no hesitation in enforcing the follow-on and go for the kill. In the second innings Australia ended 6-0 while they were 316 runs afar to make India bat again. Although, incessant rain on final day, robbed the Indian side an opportunity to make it 3-1 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Kohli and his troops broke into celebrations in the dressing room as India sealed maiden Test series triumph (2-1) Down Under