This day, the 7th of January, 2019 will be written in bold letters in the annals of Indian cricket. The Indian team and their fans will be jubilant at having won 2-1 over Australia in their own backyard for the first time. The significance of the victory can be gauged from the fact that India and the other Asian nations have been at it for more than 71 years since India’s first tour of Australia in 1947-48. The margin of victory could well have been more than one, had not the weather Gods decided to have their fling at Sydney over these past three days. This win is also a big shot in the arm for the Indians who have largely been poor travellers.
India went into the series after two disappointing away tours of South Africa an England this year. What would hurt the Indians more will be the fact that they performed well on both the tours and the scoreline there too could have been much better in both the countries. But the bottom line is that they lost, as they more often than not do, in most of the Test series abroad. Of the 5 wins from 11Test matches that they won prior to this series, this past year, three resounding ones came in Tests played at home against Afghanistan and the West Indies.
India has been ranked the number one Test team in the ICC rankings since October 2016. But most of the Test series that India has won during their reign at the top has been at home. Their inability to win against the SENA countries had led cricket fans from across the globe to question the credibility of the ICC ranking system itself. This triumph in Australia will go a long way in dousing that debate and the Indian team will be able to brandish their number one Test team tag proudly. There will be widespread celebrations in cricket-crazy India in the aftermath of the series victory Down Under.
Had it not been for a determined 123 runs by Pujara on the first day of the first Test at Adelaide the Indians would have been in trouble straight away. Another 70 runs in the second inning, and Rahane’s 71 along with some good bowling by the Indian bowlers meant that India won by a slender margin of 31 runs but not before the Australian tail-enders had given them a scare. Australia drew parity in the very next Test at Perth where the new drop-in wicket was much more lively than the one at Adelaide and more unpredictable in bounce too. Kohli’s brilliant century, Ishant Sharma’s four wickets in the first inning, and Shami’s 6 wickets in the second did not prove enough to keep the Australians at bay. Lyon was the chief tormentor for the Indians and took 9 wickets in the Test.
Mayank Agrawal, the debutant opener for India started his career on a good note scoring 76 runs in the first inning and following it up with another fighting 42 runs in the second. A Chateshwar Pujara century in his inimitable style and good contributions by the other batsmen saw India declare at 443 for seven. Australia succumbed to Bumrah who took a devastating 6 wickets for 33 runs to give India a lead of 292 runs. Cummins demolished the Indians as he took 6 wickets in India's second inning and forced them to declare at 106 for 8. Australia had little chance despite a valiant effort by the tail and lost to India by 137 runs.
India, with the 2-1 lead was assured of retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy notwithstanding the result of the last match at Sydney. With Pujara (293 runs) continuing on his merry way there also, which the Australian bowlers will probably call weary, and Rishab Pant (159 no) joining the party, India virtually batted Australia out of the game piling on a mammoth 622 for 7 and declaring. Despite bad light and rain, India managed to dismiss Australia for 300 runs in the first inning. Asked to follow on, they could bat for only four overs before any further play was rendered impossible due to rain. With over five sessions lost to inclement weather, the match was drawn. It was a disappointing end to what was an absorbing Test series.
The Australians came out of this series second best and have more questions to answer than they had before they started. For the first time in their history, no batsman scored a century in a four-Test series and Marcus Harris is the only batsman to finish with a decent average. Bowlers from both the sides bowled exceedingly well. While the Indians had an injury case in Ashwin, Starc was a bit off colour for Australia. Pat Cummins and Lyon stood out for Australia. All the Indian bowlers did fine with Bumrah standing out among the pacers. Pujara excelled to the extent that the Australian bowlers will be glad to be rid of him. The rest of the Indian batsmen batted well, Kohli’s and Pant’s centuries being the innings that stand out.
The win will go along way in bolstering the spirits of Team India in their preparations for the ICC World Cup.