New Delhi: Pitches do not always make all the difference. Class and temperament do. Australians learned it the hard way on the third day of the Kotla Test on Sunday when India beat them by six wickets to complete a historic 4-0 sweep of the four-match series.
Having started their journey in Test cricket in 1932, it was one of India's finest triumphs in the longer version of the game. The 4-0 whitewash also tasted sweeter as India had lost to Australia by an identical margin when they had toured Down Under the last time.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, however, was not ready to call it a revenge win. "I won't like to use the word revenge because then the next question could be about the spirit of the game. I think they are contradictory words.
"All I can say is that I am happy with the win and individual performances of the players, especially the youngsters in the team. The margin doesn't matter… The team played well… That's extremely satisfactory."
On Saturday, Nathan Lyon (seven for 94) boasted that a target of 100 to 150 would be enough to put India on the back foot on the turning Kotla track. It turned out to be exactly the opposite. Challenged to make 155, India completed the task in only 31.2 overs with Cheteshwar Pujara showing the way with a masterly, unbeaten knock of 82 in 92 balls with the help of 11 boundaries.
Like their batsmen, the Indian bowlers, too, performed their task to perfection. Earlier in the day, it took them only 46.3 overs to skittle Australia out for 164 in their second innings. The India first innings, lasted only eight balls on the third day, as they were all out for 272.
The Aussies hardly had any clue against Man of the Match Ravindra Jadeja (five for 58), Ravichandran Ashwin (2 for 55) and Pragyan Ojha (2 for 19).
In total, 16 wickets fell on the third day, which also brought the curtains down on the Test. Not a flattering statement for a pitch that was supposed to hold good in a five-day Test match. At the same time, 328 runs were scored on the third day.
But then, the Indian batsmen, especially Pujara and Virat Kohli (41) proved that everything that was said in ridiculing the pitch could be a bit of over-reaction. When the Indian batsmen applied themselves, the bowling hardly looked penetrative.
Australia captain Shane Watson opened the attack with two spinners ' Lyon and Glenn Maxwell. It didn't really help in the end as Lyon under-performed in the second innings.
True, a few odd balls did rise awkwardly or kept low. But the Australians should have learned to negotiate them from one of their lower-order batsmen ' Peter Siddle.
The No.9 batsman scored not only his second half-century of the match at a fast pace but also played the Indian spinners easily. At one point of time, Dhoni had to bring in Ishant Sharma to contain Siddle.
Pujara was a treat to watch. Down with a finger injury, he didn't field during the Australian second innings. The opener, however, batted with great confidence to finish on a high in the series. Having hit a half-century in the first innings, Pujara reached his second 50 of the match in just 65 balls with the help of eight fours. He was especially severe on Lyon, who was hit for a few fine boundaries.
No less was the contribution of Kohli. Not at his best in the series, he came at a time when Australians seriously believed they could pull it through.
The pressure at that time was enormous. Except for once, when he was dropped on the follow-through by Maxwell, the local boy batted carefully but never lost an opportunity to score. When Kohli finally departed, trapped leg before to Lyon, he had already added 104 runs for the second wicket with Pujara. The duo batted for 20.3 overs.
The only hitch, perhaps, was the mild collapse of the middle-order after Pujara and Kohli had almost ensured victory.
Though Sachin Tendulkar (1) was unlucky to have been ruled leg before, Ajinkya Rahane (1) had little reason to go for a wild hit. In the end, it hardly mattered as Pujara and Dhoni (12 not out) finished the job in style.