The recently concluded India-Australia Test series will go down in cricket history as one of the best in modern times.
It had it all – wars of words, pressure, controversies, drama, late twists and more importantly the quality of cricket produced in the four-match of the Test series was second to none. This has been a great advertisement for red ball cricket.
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Australia, even before a single ball was bowled, were written off, with some former cricketers even stating it would be a whitewash.
The Aussies were aware of India's brilliant record at home, and the conditions — which favour the hosts — so they came well prepared, training in Dubai. And boy did they perform well in the series; testing India in all the four Test matches, which India eventually won 2-1 to reclaim the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
This has been a brilliant home season for India, defeating New Zealand, England and Bangladesh with ridiculous ease. But, India had to take their game to the next level to maintain their unbeaten record against the Ausies.
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Here is a look at how the four Test matches went:
First Test @ MCA Stadium in Pune
India batsmen have always been brilliant players of spin bowling, but the first Test of the series proved the current lot need to learn the art of playing on a track that had something for the spinners.
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Australia, after batting first, put up a good score of 260 on a difficult pitch, but India were reduced to a shambles in their first innings, scoring only 105, with Steve O'Keefe taking six wickets.
Steve Smith showed the way for Australia in the second innings with a magnificent century, and India had to score 441 runs for a win.
With the pitch assisting the spinners, and O'Keefe in confident mood, the target was always going to be difficult for India, who were once again embarrassed by the Aussie slower bowlers. Keefe took six wickets again, and with Lyon taking four, Australia thrashed India by 333 runs to take a 1-0 lead, with the match lasting for just three days.
Man of the match – Steve O'Keefe (12 wickets)
Special mention: Steve Smith the way he handled India spinners, en route to his 109 in the second innings
Talking points from 1st Test
Australian spinners looked better.
The visitors came well prepared for the series.
India were vulnerable against the turning ball.
No team can win a Test match scoring 105 and 107 runs in the first and second innings respectively. India deserved to lose.
Second Test @ M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru
After losing the first Test in an embarrassing manner, there was a serious need for India to deliver in Bengaluru.
The pitch in the second Test also assisted the spinners, and it was seriously going to test the Indian batsmen after their debacle in Pune.
Apart from KL Rahul's innings of 90, India failed with the bat, getting dismissed for 189 in the first innings.
With Australia scoring 276, India were on the backfoot once again, and another loss loomed, but Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rajhane fought back with a solid fifth wicket partnership of 118 to provide a chance for Indian bowlers to make good use of the deteriorating track in the fourth innings.
Australia were set a target of 188, which was always a tricky one, considering the nature of wicket, and with R Ashwin picking up six wickets, the visitors were bundled out for 112 to level the series.
Man of the match – KL Rahul (90, 51runs)
Special mention: Pujara for his brilliant 92 in the second innings, which changed the complexion of the Test match.
Talking points from 2nd Test
Steve Smith's DRS controversy.
India were still not comfortable against spin as Nathan Lyon took eight wickets in the first innings.
Pujara showed runs will come, irrespective of the surface, if one digs in.
Kohli's continued to fail with the bat.
Third Test @ JSCA Stadium in Ranchi
With the first two pitches in Pune and Bengaluru bagging the headlines, the nature of the track was always going to be called into into question in Ranchi.
However, if the first two matches were bowler friendly, the Ranchi wicket had runs in store for the batsmen, and the spinners got into the game later on during the Test. With Australia scoring 451 in the first innings, including a wonderful ton from Smith and Glenn Maxwell, they were in the driver's seat.
India also took advantage of the batting surface with Pujara scoring a double ton and Wriddhiman Saha completing his century, helping India score 603.
From there on, there was only one team (India) that could win the Test, and they came close to victory as they required eight wickets on the final day. Shaun Marsh (53) and Peter Handscomb (72) saved the day for Australia to make the next Test in Dharamsala a series-decider.
Man of the match – Pujara (202 runs in first innings)
Special mention: Marsh and Handscomb digging deep on the final day.
Talking points from 3rd Test
Virat Kohli and his shoulder injury.
Rahul scored his fourth straight half-century.
Pat Cummins, who replaced Mitchell Starc, made a successful comeback after a five-year absence from international cricket, taking four wickets.
Fourth Test @ HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala
Things could not have gone any better with the fourth and final Test being the series-decider.
A draw was enough for Australia to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, while India had to emerge victorious to win the series as well as the trophy. Hence, India had to come out all guns blazing.
With Ajinkya Rahane walking out for the toss, it was clear that India had received a serious blow with their regular skipper Kohli sitting out the crucial Test due to injury.
Australia might have been pleased after seeing the pitch, which had some bounce for the fast bowlers. Despite the pitch, India decided to play an extra spinner, Kuldeep Yadav, which proved to be the right decision as the chinaman took four wickets on debut.
Smith's century helped Australia score 300, and with good contribution from Rahul, Pujara and Jadeja, India scored 332.
With a lead of 32, India pacers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav drove India to a brilliant position in the second innings, dismissing Australia's top three.
Later on, Jadeja and Ashwin took wickets at regular intervals to dismiss Australia for 137, setting up a target of 106, which India chased down in 23.5 overs.
Man of the match – Jadeja (63 runs and 4 wickets)
Special mention: Kuldeep Yadav's impressive debut, 4 wickets
Talking points from 4th Test
Ajinkaya Rahane captained brilliantly with some good bowling changes and field placements.
Umesh Yadav's inspiried bowling effort in the second innings.
Kuldeep Yadav is the one for the future.
India can survive without Kohli.
Steve Smith is a run-machine, scored his third century of the series.