When Lokesh Rahul guided the ball through the gap in the midwicket region to secure India’s overwhelming win over Australia, the long home season finally came to an end – the season which stamped India’s domination at home.
It all began with the 3-0 whitewash of New Zealand. This was followed up by an equally incredible series against England as Virat Kohli and Co. won the five-match series 4-0. The one-off Test match against Bangladesh also saw similar results with India earning a thumping win.
The onus was on Australia to possibly do some damage. While many had written the inexperienced side off, they did, in fact, put up a strong fight. India suffered their only defeat in this season to the Aussies in Pune. However, they came back strongly to regain the Border-Gavaskar trophy, winning the four-match series 2-1.
As much as the credit goes to the batsman, it was the bowlers who held the cards throughout the season. It was their guile and skill that helped India pick up the wickets and win 10 Test matches out of 13.
Here, we take a look at five of the best bowling performances in this home season.
#5 Kuldeep Yadav (4-68, India vs Australia, 4th Test match 1st innings)
It was the sheer impact that Kuldeep Yadav’s brilliant spell had on Day One, of the fourth and final Test match against Australia that puts him on this list. Australia were cruising at lunch, courtesy of some brilliant batting by Steve Smith and David Warner. They looked set for a big total that would shed any hopes of India winning the series. But debutant Kuldeep had other ideas.
The left-arm wrist spinner surprised Warner with a delivery that spun and bounced as Ajinkya Rahane completed a regulation catch at first slip to deal Australia the first blow. The next wicket was a typical chinaman dismissal. After having troubled Peter Handscomb with a variety of deliveries, this one pitched on off and went through bat and pad to dislodge the bails.
Kuldeep’s third scalp was another beauty. Glenn Maxwell had just hit him for a six over long on but the youngster was not flustered. Instead, he bowled a brilliant googly which pitched on middle and leg, and spun away from the right-hander, past the defensive prod, and into the stumps.
The brilliant spell paved the way for India’s win in the decider. Kuldeep ended with a first innings haul of 4 for 68 when he added Pat Cummins’ wicket later in the day.
#4 Ravichandran Ashwin (7-59, India vs New Zealand, 3rd Test match 2nd innings)
India had already taken an insurmountable 2-0 lead in the series thus reducing the third Test to a dead-rubber. However, that does not take away any credit from Ravichandran Ashwin’s brilliant performance in the final match, especially in the second innings which helped India complete a 3-0 whitewash in a devastating fashion.
With Ashwin taking six in the first innings, the Kiwis had already resorted to yet another disappointing result by the time they came out to bat in the 2nd innings. They had to bat out a full day and a half in order to save the match but all was undone on the fourth day itself.
In just over 44 overs, New Zealand had been dismissed for 153 with Ashwin picking up a career-best haul of 7 for 59. The Kiwi batsmen wanted to take on the offie, and both Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson showed their intent by hitting boundaries off Ashwin. However, the 29-year-old spinner managed to get the better of both.
Five more wickets were added to his name as Ashwin swept through the lower middle order and the lower order to script a memorable victory for India.
#3 Bhuvneshwar Kumar (5-48, India vs New Zealand, 2nd Test match 1st innings)
How often do we see the Indian fast bowlers outshining the spinners when playing at home? The 2nd Test against New Zealand at Eden Gardens was one such occasion. Both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami bowled fiery spells to help India clinch the series, but it was the former’s first innings performance that stands out.
The first wicket Kumar took was that of the luckless Martin Guptill, who was bowled off his elbow. Henry Nicholls struggled for some time before he too was dismissed by the swing bowler.
The Indian pacers were impressive at the start of the innings but it was Kumar’s spell in the last hour of play that yanked the game India’s way. As the game resumed after a stop in play due to rain, the conditions were ideal for him – the light had faded, and the ball was swinging and keeping low at the same time.
Ross Tayler nicked a delivery that held its line and had to depart as Murali Vijay completed the catch. A couple of overs later, Kumar trapped Mitchell Santner plumb in front with a devious inswinger. Matt Henry soon followed suit as Kumar bowled him with another inswinger that kept low. Kumar’s figures in that spell read 3/13 as he completed a five-wicket haul, his first in India.
#2 Ravindra Jadeja (7-48, India vs England, 5th Test match 2nd innings)
With India taking an unassailable lead of 3-0 in the five-match series, the last Test against England was a dead rubber. However, the visitors, with nothing to lose, were adamant at offering somewhat of a fight back and scored a sizeable 477 in the first innings. India, led by Karun Nair’s 303*, declared at 759/7, thus effectively ruling out any chance of losing the dead rubber.
All England had to do was to make sure that they did not implode on the final day. But they did just that, collapsing from 103 for no loss to 207 all out, all thanks to Ravindra Jadeja. The left-arm spinner, who recently became the No. 1 Test bowler, finished with career-best figures of 7 for 48, to help India win the series 4-0.
The wicket was not offering enormous turn but the left-arm spinner got the English batsman to commit mistakes. After a wicketless first session, Jadeja took three in the second to pave the way for India’s victory. In the final session, he rattled through the lower order, taking seven more to finish things off in style.
It was the first time in the history of the game that a team scoring 450+ in the first innings had been handed an innings defeat and Jadeja was the wrecker-in-chief.
#1 Ravichandran Ashwin (6-41, India vs Australia, 2nd Test match, 2nd innings)
India were facing a rather grim situation in the early stages of the 2nd Test match in Bengaluru. Australia already had a 1-0 lead in the series and they had taken a significant lead in the first innings. Things were looking down until the partnership between Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara settled some of the nerves.
But the job was not yet done. The Aussies needed only 188 in the fourth innings and they had enough firepower in their batting line-up to win the match and retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy. If only, they did not have to face Ravichandran Ashwin!
Yes, it was an all-round bowling performance that saw India apply a defibrillator to the series, but it was Ashwin who led the charge. On a cracking surface that offered variable bounce, 188 was difficult but definitely not impossible. But with the fall of every wicket, the pressure mounted on the Aussies. And with the fall of Peter Handscomb, who was running out of partners, all hopes were dashed.
Australia were bundled out for 112 as Ashwin picked up six wickets, his 25th five-wicket haul, to help India script an unlikely victory. This win (by no less than 75 runs) boosted the Indians confidence, which eventually helped them to win the hard-fought series.