Virat Kohli maintained his impressive record in matches in which he has won the toss as India defeated Australia by 137 runs in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne to take a 2-1 lead in the series. With visitors needing two wickets for win on Day 5, rain delayed the inevitable for a while but eventually the play resumed followed by Jasprit Bumrah breaking the defiant stand between Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon. India also retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with the win.
Here is our report card from the third Test.
After India put up 443 in the first innings, Jasprit Bumrah produced one of the spells of the year to clean up the hosts for just 151. India's best bowler in the series, Bumrah, wrecked the Aussies with a six-wicket haul that included quite a lot of 'jaffas' with India having their tails up after a good first innings total. The slower yorker against Shaun Marsh and the searing full-length ball to clean up Travis Head stood out. Bumrah further added the key scalps of Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh and Pat Cummins in the second innings.
If Australia were deplorable, Pat Cummins was an aberration, standing tall amidst the ruins and producing the goods with bat and ball. He picked up the first three Indian wickets in the first innings but it was in the second innings that the seamer hit the purple patch. Strangling batsmen with extra bounce and a line that attacked the body, he removed Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli - both for ducks - Ajinkya Rahane and Mayank Agarwal to pick up a six-wicket haul. He was defiant with the bat in the second innings on day four and forced India to come out on the fifth day.
In his debut match, Agarwal showed just what India missed at the top of the order in the overseas tours this year. The Karnataka opener was defiant, showcased intent and importantly took on Nathan Lyon to rattle the Australians' modus operandi. His method of tackling Lyon left a lasting impression from which the off-spinner never really recovered. He followed up the classy 76 in the first innings with a well-made 42 to end a superb debut.
Pujara produced a Test batting masterclass in the first innings at Melbourne to bat Australia out of the contest. Walking in after the openers laid a solid platform for once, Pujara made use of the flat surface and some lacklustre bowling to pile on the runs. Despite making his third overseas ton this year, Pujara was criticised for being too slow by Ricky Ponting but eventually had the last laugh as Australia failed to put together enough runs.
An uncharacteristic knock from Kohli ensued in the first innings as the skipper notched up a fine half-century but was bogged down for most part of the innings. In 204 balls, Kohli made 82, stitching together a 170-run partnership with Pujara and taking India to a dominant first innings score. He was undone by Cummins for a duck in the second innings but India's lead had crossed 300-run mark by then.
With the MCG surface producing invariable bounce, Jadeja's stump-to-stump lines and sharp turn posed quite a few problems for Australia. He got the better of Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Marsh in the first innings and added a further three in the second essay to peg the hosts back. Jadeja switched between a holding and attacking role seamlessly and complemented the Indian pace attack perfectly.
Starc was fiery with the second new ball in the first innings, nearly getting rid of Kohli late on day one. He eventually sent back the Indian skipper and added the wicket of Rishabh Pant to cap off a fine performance. Starc bowled with good pace and rhythm for the most part of the innings but the stubborn Pujara-Kohli stand eventually got the better of him.
Pant was given a hard time while batting by Tim Paine's constant chirping but once again managed to make valuable contribution. He has been solid in this series but hasn't managed to make it big with some of his characteristic flamboyance. Pant will need a few good days behind and in front of the stumps to convince some of his detractors.
Head is Australia's top-scorer for the series by quite some distance but the left-hander failed to play the firefighter role here at MCG as Indian bowlers towered over the Aussie batsmen. Head showcased grit and resolve that has been the hallmark of this Australian side but became a victim of Bumrah's yorker in the first innings. In the second, he chopped on off Ishant Sharma after a 92-ball stay at the wicket.
Picked controversially in the side yet again, Rohit batted in the middle-order despite rumour mills stating he could open the innings. Rohit brushed aside criticism surrounding his selection by making runs at MCG, scoring a 114-ball 63, but was dismissed soon in the second essay.
Much of Australia's hopes in the second innings hinged on Shaun as he waged a lone battle with others falling around him. His footwork was fluent and also played a couple of eye-catching strokes but fell for 44 before he could make a bigger impact. In the first innings, he made headlines for being at the receiving end of a superb slower yorker from Bumrah.
Shami was sharp and incisive in his short spells for India at MCG. With his extra bounce being a handy weapon, Shami kept his end busy by constantly targeting the stumps. He sent back Usman Khawaja in the second innings to derail Australia chase.
Ishant went wicket-less in the first innings and removed Travis Head, courtesy an inside edge, in the second but was required to do very little as Bumrah and Jadeja picked up the big scalps. Ishant was tidy as ever and kept his end silent but the zing that was evident with his new ball spells in Adelaide and Perth was missing here.
Mitchell was effective with the ball for Australia, keeping Pujara and Kohli silent for long periods of time with his immaculate lines and subtle variations. He bowled 26 overs in the first innings but went wicket-less despite bowling quite well. However, his returns with the bat were poor yet again and Australia might be tempted to look elsewhere in the next series if he fails to step up at Sydney.
Khawaja got starts in both innings but failed to convert them into anything substantial as Australia sorely missed a player who could anchor their innings. The southpaw made 21 off 32 balls in the first essay, appearing positive and solid but fell to a brilliant delivery from Jadeja as he gifted a catch to short leg. In the second innings, Khawaja was trapped in front by Shami after a 59-ball stay at the wicket for 33. Australia need more from their batting mainstay but Khawaja has constantly been finding ways to throw away his wicket.
Rahane was classy with his shot making in the first innings, executing some outrageous shots during his stay at the crease. His 34 came off 76 balls and despite looking all set to score big, he was undone by Lyon yet another time. He was caught down the leg-side off Pat Cummins in the second innings, being the pacers' fourth scalp.
Apart from his funny banter from behind the stumps and ball-consuming innings, Paine hasn't been making as many runs as Australia need him to. That said, he has been getting starts and is their second-highest run-scorer this year in Tests. The skipper might want to take a little more responsibility with the bat by moving up a place or two in the batting order.
With lack of helpful conditions, Hazlewood failed to be as effective with the ball as in the first two Tests but managed to pick up a couple in the midst of a searing spell from Cummins. Australia, though, will want their most reliable seamer to provide more support to Starc and Cummins despite lack of help from the surface.
Promoted up the order to open the innings, Vihari took 25 balls to get off the mark in the first innings despite appearing confident and comfortable. The 40-run opening stand with Mayank laid the platform for the Indians but Vihari failed to push on after consuming so many balls which worked against him. In the second innings, he was undone by Cummins and after two unconvincing scores, Vihari could find himself in the firing line for Sydney.
Harris was visibly shaken by Bumrah's short ball tactics and after being hit on the helmet, decided to attack the bouncers. Unfortunately for him, his charge against Bumrah went straight to the deep fieldsman. Jadeja sent him back in the second and the Victorian will hope that at Sydney at least he can play an innings that would force the selectors to think twice before dropping him once David Warner and Cameron Bancroft return.
Finch's horrible stint at the top of the order continued as he was the first man to fall in both Australian innings. The opener flicked one straight to short mid-wicket in the first innings where Agarwal took a stunner, while in the second, he played a horrendous shot off Bumrah in the second over to walk back for 3.
Lyon was taken to cleaners by Agarwal the moment he came in to the attack and immediately got defensive by coming around the wicket and sending mid-on back. The onslaught from the Karnataka opener continued through the Test match as Lyon strrugled to overcome it. He sent down 48 overs in India's first innings for just a single wicket and appeared ineffective for the most part of the Test match.
Rating chart: 10-9: Excellent, 8-7: Good, 6-5: Average, 4-3: Poor, 2-1: Very poor
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Pujara, who made his Test debut against Australia in Bengaluru, had an impressive first outing as he scored 72 in the second innings in India's successful 207-run chase.
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