Ten days ago, no one would have believed that India was going to keep the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after just six playing days, spread over two Tests.
But the unbelievable happened after two days of even fighting in the second Test. On Sunday morning, Australia courted disaster at the Ferozeshah Kotla after an embarrassing batting display and opened the door for India to race away to a six-wicket victory.
Seen in the foreground of Australia’s fighting 263 in the best conditions to bat on this pitch, its shocking free-fall from the overnight 62 for one to 113 in 91 minutes was hard to understand.
Man-of-the-Match Ravindra Jadeja helped himself to a career-best seven for 42 by guiding the visitors to their doom. Thereafter, India traded four wickets for brisk runs to reach the target of 115 in just 26.4 overs.
Cheteshwar Pujara, involved in a mix-up that ended in the run out of a free-stroking Rohit Sharma, put the finishing touches with a boundary after K.S. Bharat’s enterprising cameo hastened the end.
But the talking point of the day was Australia’s implosion. Armed with a lead of 62 with nine wickets in hand, the team was poised to put India under pressure in the fourth innings. The way Travis Head batted late on Saturday and with Marnus Labuschagne looking in good touch, India knew it had to strike early and repeatedly. The drama unfolded soon.
In the first over, after Head’s third-ball boundary, R. Ashwin foxed his man off the fifth delivery.
Bharat took the catch off the edge of Head’s defensive bat. Next, Steve Smith’s pre-meditated sweep caught him plumb before four wickets sensationally fell at 95. Labuschagne fell to a ball that lacked bounce. The next three wickets came off consecutive deliveries and left Australia tottering at 95 for seven.
After Ashwin had Matthew Renshaw leg-before — now thrice this series — Jadeja’s new over saw Peter Handscomb fall to a first-slip catch by Virat Kohli and skipper Pat Cummins bowled, trying to slog-sweep, for an innings hat-trick.
Alex Carey became Jadeja’s fifth scalp when his leg-stump lay uprooted following an attempted reverse-sweep.
But Jadeja was not done yet. He bowled Nathan Lyon and debutant Matthew Kuhnemann to end the innings.
Lyon played on before Kunhemann’s reverse-sweep saw the ball kiss his gloves and hit the stumps.
In India’s chase, K.L. Rahul’s poor form continued following an unfortunate dismissal. His shot deflected off short-leg fielder Handscomb’s knee-guard and Carey completed the catch.
Rohit, looking good to finish the chase in a hurry, was run out. Kohli, after crossing 25,000 international runs, was stumped.
Similarly, Shreyas Iyer fell to his impetuousness by hitting down the throat of Murphy for a 10-ball 12. Bharat smashed a 22-ball 23 to bring India to the threshold of another famous win before Pujara did the honours.