Australia 300 & 137; India 332 & 107-2
Another fine contest in the 4th and final test in Dharamsala saw India dominating key sessions throughout for an eight-wicket victory and a 2-1 series win.
With a little more than half an hour to go before lunch on Day 4, KL Rahul reeled in the final couple of runs for India with a calm stroke past midwicket to clinch the fourth and final test against the Australians in Dharamsala. It was a bit of an anti-climax after the fierce battle in this deciding game, with the series poised at 1-1 after the drawn test in Ranchi, and the title of the number one team in the world on the line. But the win would have been immensely satisfying – India’s 10th in 13 tests in a splendid home season, and marking their dominance over the rest of the test-playing world.
It was a delightfully absorbing series, featuring uniquely different wickets at each venue that never really favoured a single team. India deservedly came out on top having seized their moments to turn things around despite the heavy loss in Pune. That 333-run defeat in the opener could well have set the tone, the Aussies besting the hosts on a tricky, turning wicket. But a fighting win in a low-scoring game in Bengaluru levelled things for India. And they came close in Ranchi but for the defiance of the Aussie batting lineup to save the test.
— ICC (@ICC) March 28, 2017
But perhaps the most satisfying win of the series came in the final test at Dharamsala. Served up a pitch more akin to the pace-friendly tracks down under rather than a turning subcontinental wicket, and missing captain and ace batsman Virat Kohli to the now infamous shoulder-injury from Ranchi, Ajinkya Rahane led with an intent to take the game to Australia. His keen decision to play a fifth bowler in Kuldeep Yadav, aggressive captaincy while India bowled and leading by example with the bat were all key to the win. And it was a notable counter to the way Australia were heavily reliant on the performances of Steve Smith. For India, Kohli barely made a mark. Instead it was a satisfyingly collective effort that brought in this latest triumph in a magnificent season.
On a pitch that offered everything – pace, bounce, turn, and stunning views of the Himalayas – India made the most of their chances to win comfortably on Day 4
For the Australians the match at Dharamsala was one defined by missed opportunities. Beginning on the front foot as Warner and Smith dominated most of Day 1, the visitors looked set for a giant first innings score in the region of 400-500 runs. But India’s shrewd inclusion of chinaman spinner Kuldeep Yadav proved the difference. The debutante found turn where little existed for the conventional spinners on both sides. The 22-year old became the hero on the day, ripping through a bamboozled Aussie top-order to spark a collapse.
India were overly cautious on their turn to bat on Day 2, but made steady progress while navigating some superb, hostile pace from Hazlewood and Cummins, and some canny spin by Lyon. Wickets fell regularly, but a feisty knock from all-rounder Jadeja at number eight pulled the momentum away from the Aussies. Jadeja and Saha helped stretch India’s innings to a small yet significant lead of 32 runs early in Day 3.
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) March 28, 2017
But with the match delicately balanced at this point, the Australian batting line-up failed themselves yet again. Some inspired pace-bowling by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and particularly Umesh Yadav, blew away the Aussie top order. Losing captain Smith even before they passed India’s measly lead was a major blow for the visitors. And with the sustained pressure from the fast bowlers, Ashwin and Jadeja started mopping up the rest. As the wickets fell regularly, the match inexorably slipped from the Australians’ hands with them unable to cobble together a challenging target for the Indians.
Ultimately set a chase of 106 near the close of Day 3, India had some early jitters courtesy of the still fiery Cummins and Hazlewood. But captain Rahane came out looking to end things quickly, smacking consecutive sixes off Cummins and dispelling any doubts about the impending result.
RESULT: India won by 8 wickets
India 107/2 (23.5 ov, target: 106) v Australiahttps://t.co/xbjbMGRCtz
— ESPNcricinfo scores (@ESPNscorecard) March 28, 2017
Post-match reactions from Australia captain Steve Smith
The Aussie skipper was gracious in defeat and spoke of the great contest throughout their tour:
“Magnificent series. One of the best I have been a part of. Credit to India, they are a fantastic cricket side, particularly in their backyard. If you give them a sniff, they will take that.
“For Australia, this is the toughest conditions for us. To challenge them so much, I am proud. The middle session yesterday, when you lose five for 70, you put yourself behind. Credit to India. Umesh was fantastic. They have all been fantastic.”
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) March 28, 2017
On his side’s performance through the series:
“A lot of people wrote us off. They said it was going to be a 4-0 whitewash. I am proud of the way we have competed. We have probably let a few moments slip. Against India you can’t do that.”
On the ground at Dharamsala:
“What an amazing ground. The wicket was a good one. Pace and bounce, that’s what we like. It suited spinners as well. If you are willing to bat time, you can get runs.”
The captain also made a reference to all the controversy and clashes through the series and apologised for his part in them:
“I have been pretty intense throughout this series. I really wanted to do well for the team. At times I have been in my own bubble and have let my emptions slip. I apologise for that.”
Post-match reactions from Ajinkya Rahane, the skipper for the fourth test
On India’s amazing home season this year:
“Credit to all the boys. Not only this series, but to whoever has played this season. Really happy as a captain.”
On his gameplan for the final test and the bowlers’ execution on the field:
“We decided at lunch on day one that if we stop their runs and if we take one wicket, we could be back because only Smith and Warner were scoring runs. The way Kuldeep bowled in that session, hats off to him. We knew Kuldeep was bowling really well in the nets. He had an x-factor. Fantastic to see Umesh and Bhuvnesh and Ishant and Shami, the kind of performances they put in on Indian pitches.”
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) March 28, 2017
On the tight contest in such quick games:
“In low-scoring games, you just need 30-40 quick runs in the middle. I was thinking of the Galle defeat when we got into our shell. Credit to Australia, they played some good cricket and gave us a fight.”
On the pitch at Dharamsala:
“This was the best wicket. Good bounce and pace. The ball turned too. But it was good to bat too if you applied yourself.”
Post-match reactions from India captain Virat Kohli
The captain, watching from the sidelines at Dharamsala due to the shoulder injury sustained in Ranchi spoke happily of India’s successful season:
“Unbelievable. This is our best series win so far. I thought England was intense, but the way Australia gave us a fight it was amazing on their part but our guys kept bouncing back. Shows the character and maturity. Ajinkya led the team really well.”
— cricket.com.au Video (@CricketVideo) March 28, 2017
On the work put in by the team and the staff through the season:
“The changes we made in our fitness regime have paid off. Guys have been able to sustain the performance throughout the season. In the past we have had sessions where we have given away the game easily.
“Not this season. Been a team season. Not one or two individuals who have stood out. Unbelievable, the kind of fitness and desire the fast bowlers have shown, it has been game-changing.”
On how his own recovery is going:
“Still a few weeks to go till I can be 100% on the field. You have to take it in your stride and move forward.”