MOHALI, March 18 (PTI): India clinched the Test series against a spirited Australia with their biggest-ever margin after recording a nerve-wracking six-wicket victory in the third cricket Test to take a 3-0 lead in the four-match series here today.
Never in their 81-year-old Test history, have India won more than two matches against Australia in a single series.
After bowling out Australia for 223 in their second innings, India chased down the target of 133 with 15 balls remaining before close of play in a match which saw a nail-biting finish.
The hosts encountered some tense moments in their run chase before skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni smashed three fours off Mitchell Starc in a row to seal the match in India’s favour much to the delight of the home crowd.
Earlier, it was a defiant 65-minute last-wicket stand between Starc and Xavier Doherty, during which they consumed 18.1 overs for 44 runs to ensure the Indians, at least, don’t run away with the game before the start of the 15 mandatory overs.
When the final hour started, India required 45 runs from a minimum of 15 overs. They completed the chase losing the wickets of Murali Vijay (26), Cheteshwar Pujara (28), Virat Kohli (34) and Sachin Tendulkar (21).
Dhoni (18) and Ravindra Jadeja (8) were at the crease when the winning runs were scored.
In the process, India reclaimed the Border-Gavaskar trophy, which they relinquished after a 0-4 drubbing in Australia last year. The victory was achieved on the back of some fine batting by debutant Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay, both of them scoring big centuries in India’s first innings. Dhawan smashed 187, his 100 coming off a mere 85 balls making him the quickest-ever debutant to reach the three-figure mark. India will now push for a clean sweep when the fourth and final final Test starts in New Delhi from Friday.
Not to be left behind were the host spinners, who accounted for 14 of the 20 Australians wickets to have fallen in the match.
And leading the show with the ball was all-rounder Jadeja, who bagged six wickets in the match, including that of Australia skipper Michael Clarke, in both the innings. With Australia resuming on 75 for three, the Indian spinners once again worked their magic as they bundled out the visitors for 223 in their second innings, setting India an achievable target to win in a minimum of 27 overs (+15 mandatory overs) at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium.
During his knock, Pujara, who opened the innings in place of Dhawan, who could not take to the field on the final day due to an injury on his left knuckle, completed 1000 runs in the country to become the 34th Indian to achieve the landmark.
Excluding the one-off Test victory way back in 1996, this was the fifth time India have won the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
After the damage was inflicted on Australia by the spinners, India started the chase on a confident note, with both Vijay and Pujara playing some delightful shots before getting out to Doherty and Lyon. Kohli made 34 before being dismissed by Peter Siddle. Earlier, Doherty and Starc’s spirited effort could only delay the inevitable, as there was just enough time for the hosts to fashion a comfortable win.
Left-arm spinner Jadeja was once again the most effective bowler for the hosts, returning with impressive figures of three for 35 – his all three wickets, including that of Australian skipper Michael Clarke, coming on the final day.
There were two wickets apiece for fellow left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and off-break bowler Ravichandran Ashwin. Ashwin leads the wickets tally in the series with 22 scalps, followed by Jadeja who has 17 to his name, reflecting the Indian spinners’ dominance.
Young paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar had taken three wickets yesterday evening to rock the Australian top-order. India grabbed the remaining seven Australian wickets in the first two sessions while giving away 148 runs runs. While the Indians were 30 for no loss with Vijay and Pujara at the crease at tea, Australia, after losing eight wickets, were ahead by 79 runs with Brad Haddin and Mitchell Starc batting on 23 and nine respectively, when the lunch break was called.
Jadeja finished the innings by claiming the wicket of Starc. Nathan Lyon, Clarke, overnight batsman Phillip Hughes (69), Mosies Henriques, Peter Siddle, Brad Hadding and Starc were the batsmen to have been dismissed today, which had left India within sniffing distance of winning their third straight Test against the team from Down Under.
In the morning, Jadeja picked up the wickets of Henriques and Clarke – this was the fifth time in six outings in the series that the Saurashtra player had taken the Australian skipper’s wicket. He then came back to pack off the innings by claiming Starc’s wicket. After night-watchman Lyon was caught behind off Ojha for the day’s first wicket in the innings’ 28th over, in walked Clarke, who demoted himself in the batting order due to a recurring sore back.
Clarke survived 49 balls for his 18 while hitting three boundaries, before Jadeja got his ‘bunny’, caught at forward short-leg by Pujara who held on the catch after the Aussie got an inside edge onto his pads.
There was some confusion over his dismissal, but the field umpire checked with the third umpire to clear his doubts as Clarke trudged back to the pavilion. In deep hole at 119 for five, and with their captain gone, Hughes got a poor decision from Aleem Dar which added to Australia’s woes.
Australia 1stiInnings: 408
India 1st innings: 499
Australia 2nd innings: David Warner c Dhoni b Kumar 2, Ed Cowan lbw b Kumar 8, Phil Hughes lbw b Ashwin 69, Steve Smith b Kumar 5, Nathan Lyon c Dhoni b Ojha 18, Michael Clarke c Pujara b Jadeja 18, Brad Haddin lbw b Ashwin 30, Moises Henriques c & b Jadeja 2, Peter Siddle b Ojha 13, Mitchell Starc c Ashwin b Jadeja 35, Xavier Doherty not out 18. Extras: (LB-3, W-1, NB-1) 5. Total: (all out; 89.2 overs) 223. Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-35, 3-55, 4-89, 5-119, 6-123, 7-126, 8-143, 9-179. Bowling: Bhuvneshwar Kumar 10-1-31-3, Ishant Sharma 9-1-34-0, R Ashwin 31-9-72-2, Ravindra Jadeja 16.2-6-35-3, Pragyan Ojha 21-6-46-2, Sachin Tendulkar 2-0-2-0.
India 2nd innings: Vijay st Haddin b Doherty 26, Pujara lbw b Lyon 28, Kohli c Hughes b Siddle 34, Tendulkar run out 21, Dhoni not out 18, Jadeja not out 8. Extras: (WD-1) 1. Total: (For 4 wickets in 33.3 overs) 136. Fall of wickets: 1-42, 2-70, 3-103, 4-116. Bowling: M Starc 10.3-1-51-0, P Siddle 11-2-34-1, N Lyon 5-0-27-1, X Doherty 7-2-24-1.