The Sydney Test panned out into a drab draw as rain played spoilsport on days four and five with the last day entirely washed out. Only a little more than 25 overs were possible in the last two days as Australia escaped with a draw, but lost the home series 1-2. India registered their first ever series win Down Under and will take home a load of positives from the final Test despite the draw. Here is our report card from the fourth and final Test of the series.
The Saurashtra batsman has been unstoppable in the series as he cracked his third hundred of the tour and put India in the driving seat after they opted to bat first at Sydney. Cheteshwar Pujara made the Australian bowlers work hard and wore them down with his tireless, unflinching innings. The mammoth knock consumed 373 balls and yielded 193 runs. Pujara would rue that he missed out on a double hundred which was there for the taking but he had all but given India a series win when walking back after the innings.
If Pujara was tenacious and relentless, Rishabh Pant was aggressive, solid and unforgiving. The dynamic wicket-keeper batsman smashed the first Test century by an Indian keeper in Australia and combined with Ravindra Jadeja in a double century stand that shred the Aussie bowlers to dust on day 2. Pant's unbeaten 159 came off 189 balls and had some audacious strokes all around the wicket.
Ravidnra Jadeja made his mark at Sydney even before he came on to bowl with a 204-run partnership with Pant, the best by any pair for the seventh wicket in Australia. Having thwarted the Aussie attack for 114 balls, scoring 81, Jadeja missed out on a ton but made amends with the ball as he picked up two wickets and ably supported Kuldeep Yadav. Jadeja sent back the solid Marcus Harris and an out of form Shaun Marsh to pick up two in the innings.
Kuldeep's surprise inclusion in the XI was justified when he used his variations to bamboozle the Australian batsmen. He beat Khawaja in flight to draw first blood after a 72-run opening stand, getting late dip on the ball to force an error. The chinaman spinner generated drift, dip and plugged in his variations every now and then to keep the Aussies on their toes. He cleaned up the tail to complete a five-for and push his case for a permanent place in the XI.
The inclusion of the Karnataka opener was perhaps the series-winning moment for India as he took on a confident Nathan Lyon at MCG and destroyed his rhythm. At Sydney, he was once again unforgiving against Lyon and took him on with utmost ease. He also played the quicker bowlers with elan but the treatment meted out to the off-spinner was special. However, in an over that saw him club two sixes off Lyon, he went for one more only to be caught at long-on. Mayank will regret that he missed out on another opportunity to score a hundred but will return to India as India’s first-choice opener in Tests.
Harris will end his debut series as Australia's top-scorer, showcasing his skills multiple times in the series without really making the starts count with a big hundred. He was the most reliable of Aussie batters and showed good judgement outside his off-stump and assuredness in defence but the inability to convert those half-centuries to tons, which Harris would like to work on before Steven Smith and David Warner return and there is tussle for top-order spots.
Brought back down the order after a short opening stint, Vihari oozed class in his 96-ball stay at the wicket. He was solid in defence, elegant with his drives and played exceptionally well before a poor call from the third umpire brought an impromptu end to his innings. Vihari was struck on the arm and given caught out which he promptly reviewed but the third umpire upheld the decision despite an evident mismatch between the spike in snicko and the moment the ball passed Vihari’s bat.
Mohammad Shami bowled to his field and kept things quiet from his end much like fellow bowler Jasprit Bumrah. All he needed to do was ensure the Aussies weren't allowed to run away when the spinners were off the attack and Shami did that with ease. He set up Marnus Labuschagne and cleaned up Pat Cummins to pick up a couple of wickets as well.
Nathan Lyon was among the wickets again but was anything but threatening at Sydney where Jadeja and Kuldeep appeared a lot more effective. He picked up the big scalps of Agarwal, Pujara and Vihari but all of them came long after they had already put India in position of strength. The spring in Lyon's steps, evident at Adelaide and Perth, was missing in the final two Tests.
Bumrah was tidy as always, keeping the Aussie batsmen quiet and creating the rough for Jadeja and Kuldeep to exploit. Being one of only two seamers in the side, Bumrah gave Kohli adequate backing with his tight lines and ensured his end stayed silent. Bumrah will end the series as the top wicket-taker, stamping down his tag as India’s no.1 fast bowler.
Kohli missed out on a chance to score big on a surface that had little in it for the bowlers when he was strangled down the leg-side by Josh Hazlewood for 23. The Indian skipper, though, was impressive with his captaincy, rotating his bowlers cleverly and manoeuvring the field with authority. Kohli will end the Tests as India’s third-highest run-scorer in the series but will be most satisfied with the way the team stepped up.
Recalled into the side leaving experts baffled, Labuschagne was listless with the ball, bowling quite a lot of full tosses. He was asked to occupy the crucial no.3 spot and surprised quite a few by showing more determination than some of the more illustrious names in the side. His stay, though, came to an end after a 95-ball 38 with Kohli expertly navigating his leg-side field to eke out a wicket and Rahane pulling off a stunner.
Handscomb did his bit to justify the recall but Australia need more than fancy 30s from their batsmen. Thwarting criticism for a while, Handscomb showed more composure than some of his teammates but Bumrah worked him over with the new ball, plugging in a few back of a length deliveries before going fuller and forcing an inside edge. Handscomb's technical issue was once again brought to the fore as he stayed on his back foot for the fuller one and chopped on.
Cummins steamed in ball after ball but with no movement and less swing on offer, he failed to be as effective as he was in Melbourne and also bowled on the shorter side which helped the Indian batsmen counter him with more ease. Cummins’ back of a length channels weren't suited to the wicket and he failed to adapt in time to the length change needed. He was once again resistant with the bat and will end the series as one of Australia's rare positives.
Usman Khawaja went back to opening the batting, a position that has seen him score two hundreds and as many half-centuries in five innings. That kind of form wasn't on display at The SCG even though he stitched together a half-century stand with Harris. He played a deplorable shot off Yadav to walk back for 27.
Hazlewood was largely ineffective on a surface that had no lateral seam movement and was used with the new ball alone. He sent back the Indian skipper and KL Rahul but appeared tired and listless in his latter spells as Pujara, Pant and Jadeja took turns grinding him down.
Like Kohli, Rahane missed out on a chance to score big but unlike his skipper, Rahane needed a solid knock to stabilise his place in the XI particularly with the likes of Hanuma Vihari, Pant and Mayank Agarwal stepping up. Rahane will end the series with an average of 31.00 and a couple of half-centuries but a knock that would secure his place in the XI for a while was missing.
Head will end the series as Australia's second highest run-scorer but the resilience and determination he showed in the first two Tests was evidently missing here at Sydney. He took his time to settle in but threw it away by drilling a full toss from Kuldeep straight back to him. With the team in dire straits, Head needed to stay put and show the way but instead played a forgettable shot to end the series on a sour note.
Rahul's wretched tour continued as he slashed at a wide Hazlewood delivery to edge to the cordon early on. The Karnataka opener was brought back into the XI wit the opening slot left vacant with Vihari moved down the order, but he failed to justify the faith placed on him with another poor shot. His tally for the series after 5 innings is 57 which includes four single-digit scores. Rahul will have to make way for Prithvi Shaw once he returns and work hard to get back into the side.
Marsh made another single-digit score as he misread Jadeja's arm ball and drove at it only to edge to Rahane at slip. The experienced Aussie batsman appeared out of sorts in most innings in the series and will be lucky if he isn't dropped ahead of the Sri Lankan series.
Tim Paine was poor with his captaincy, rotating his bowlers around and wasn't to dictate matters. His field placements were questionable and the authority and cheekiness he showed early in the series went missing. His only plan to Pujara and Pant seemed to be to ask his seamers to bowl short with a leg-side heavy field. With no Plan B, Paine ended the series with a miserable few days in the field at Sydney. He was flummoxed by a Kuldeep special while batting, the ball sneaking in past his drive to shatter the stumps.
The Aussie seamer was pretty poor with his line and length and despite clocking an average speed in the high 140s in the series, Starc was anything but threatening. He wasted the new ball with his wayward line and length and was mostly too full or too short and his inconsistency led to 26 overs with no maidens to his name. Starc will have to answer quite a few critics for his lacklustre performance in the Test and series.
Rating chart: 10-9: Excellent, 8-7: Good, 6-5: Average, 4-3: Poor, 2-1: Very poor