Gavaskar’s team toppled Border’s team in the recent Test series played in Australia, but no one: no Pundit, Prophet, or Player could have predicted this. By this, I refer to the India-Australia Test series, which resulted in a 2-1 win for India. India’s captain and iconic batsman left for paternity reasons after the 1st Test; and their senior players got injured, resulting in India fielding 20 players in the 4 Test matches. Only two, Chateshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane played in all 4 Tests.
At the end of the day, one team won the Border-Gavaskar trophy with smiles on their faces; and the other team at humble pie with mud on their face.
The final result was totally unexpected in this 4-Test series.
Australia won the toss 3 times and chose to bat each time. India won the toss only once, in the 1st Test, chose to bat and lost the match by 8 wickets. Australia was riding high.
Statistically, Australia was ahead with two centuries: Steve Smith at Sydney in the 3rd Test; and Marnus Labuschagne at Brisbane in the 4th Test. India had only one century, with Ajinkya Rahane, at Melbourne in the 2nd Test.
For Australia in bowling, Josh Hazelwood had two 5-fors, with 5 for 8 in the 1st Test; and 5 for 57 in the 4th Test. India had just one, with Mohammed Siraj picking up 5 for 73 in the 4th Test at Brisbane. Siraj, the son of an auto-rickshaw driver who father died while Siraj was in Australia, was selected only because the senior players – Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Umesh Yadev were injured. India lost the 1st Test; won the 2nd; drew the 3rd; and won the 4th Test.
Below is a synopsis of the matches.
In the 1st Test at Adelaide, Australia bowled India for 36 runs in the 2nd innings, and won the match by 8 wickets – Hazelwood 5 for 8 in 5 overs, with 3 maidens.
In the 4th Test at Brisbane, India’s young guns came through with flying colours
In the 2nd Test at Melbourne, Rahane captaining in place of the absent Kohli, scored a scintillating century, leading India to 326 runs. India then bowled Australia out for 200 runs in the 2nd innings, scored 70 and won by 8 wickets.
In the 3rd Test at Sydney, Smith scored a century, leading Australia to 338 runs and Australia declared their 2nd innings at 312 runs for 6, leaving India to score 406 runs in the 4th innings. India’s unfinished 2nd innings was 334 for 5, in which two players, Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin, batted over almost 2 sessions, to achieve a seemingly impossible draw. Their 1st miracle – defending.
In the 4th Test at Brisbane, India’s young guns came through with flying colours. Australia batted first, with Labuschagne scoring a century and Australia put on 369 runs. India responded with 336 but Josh Hazelwood picked up his second 5-for with 5 for 57. Australia’s 2nd innings was just under 300, leaving India to score 328 runs to win. This they did with 7 wickets down, on the back of Shubman Gill who scored 91 runs, but more importantly, Gill nullifying Mitchel Starc, who leaked 20 runs in his last over. Rishabh Pant scored 89 runs and hit the winning runs, a cover-drive off an intended yorker by Hazelwood. Their 2nd miracle – attacking.
Injuries to their senior players worked in their favour, rather than against them. It forced India to include untried players who performed in stellar fashion; such as Rishabh Pant, Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur
Pant, the Man-of-the-Match, had been included as a replacement for Kohli, nudging off the first choice wicket-keeper, Wriddhaman Saha, who only played in the 1st Test. Such are the quirks of fate.
My analysis of why India won in spite of the odds is:
1.) Injuries to their senior players worked in their favour, rather than against them. It forced India to include untried players who performed in stellar fashion; such as Rishabh Pant, Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur.
2.) Tim Paine’s captaincy and wicket-keeping were at a low ebb. Australia has the best bowling side of the Test-playing countries but the bowlers lacked motivation under Paine, who seemed to mismanage them. Paine also became frustrated in the 3rd Test, and became unnecessarily mouthy.
3.) The Indian batsmen defanged Nathan Lyon, who is no mean bowler, with 399 wickets in 100 Tests, but he only picked up 9 wickets in these 4 Tests.
4.) They also nullified Mitchell Starc, who was not as effective as expected, putting more of a burden on Pat Cummins and Hazelwood, who picked up 21 & 17 wickets respectively. Starc got only 11 wickets in 4 Tests.