Cricket

Kohli & his merry men keep their date with destiny

India's captain Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane celebrate after winning the third test match between Australia and India at the MCG in Melbourne, Australia, December 30, 2018.

India's captain Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane celebrate after winning the third test match between Australia and India at the MCG in Melbourne, Australia, December 30, 2018.

You can freeze the frame. A joyous Virat Kohli defying gravity, leaping as high as his ambition, even as teammates swarm around him.

Ishant Sharma bounced at Nathan Lyon, the batsman attempted a hook, and a gleeful ’keeper Rishabh Pant held the top-edge. The Test had been won.

Staunch support

Soon the MCG was awash with emotions. The Indians, both relieved and joyous, celebrated a famous overseas win, the chanting of its supporters and the beating of the drums grew louder.

The fans had braved inclement weather, sung and danced to cheer their team even when no play was possible in the frustrating pre-lunch session on day five owing to drizzle and rain. 

When play finally commenced, India took just 27 deliveries to remove the last two batsmen, win the Test by a comprehensive 137 runs and retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

With an unassailable 2-1 lead in the four-Test series, India will now attempt to accomplish what no Indian team has ever done — triumph in a Test series in Australia — when the Sydney Test begins on January 3. 

India’s last Test victory at the iconic MCG came way back in 1981 when Sunil Gavaskar’s team, inspired by Kapil Dev, overcame Australia by 59 runs. 

Kohli’s men kept their date with destiny. When play commenced on Sunday, Jasprit Bumrah, always dangerous, got one to deviate away from Pat Cummins (63) and Cheteshwar Pujara snaffled a sharp catch at first slip.

Then Ishant got rid of Lyon and it was all over. The Indian celebrations began. 

With nine scalps in the Test — including a six-wicket haul in the first innings that broke the back of the Aussie batting and put India on course — Bumrah was adjudged Man-of-the-Match.

No Indian paceman has more wickets than Bumrah’s nine in a single Test in Australia. The demolition man from Gujarat has been thunder down under.

On par with Ganguly

And this was the 11th overseas Test victory for Kohli, putting him on level terms with path-breaking India captain Sourav Ganguly.

And Pant, even as he is busy motivating the bowlers and getting under the skin of the opposition with his comments, now has 20 dismissals in the series (all catches) the most by an Indian wicketkeeper in a Test series.

India won the key moments in the Tests after Kohli, despite some grass on the pitch, elected to bat.

And the new opening combination of Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari batted 18.5 overs to blunt the new Kookaburra ball and make it easier for the rest.

Mayank, so compact and well organised in both offence and defence, was a revelation on debut. He has the temperament to match his footwork.

And Cheteshwar Pujara’s monumental 319-ball 106 on a pitch of variable bounce that saw him taking blows on his knuckles and his long association with skipper Kohli (82) set the stage for India. 

The Indian batsmen read the pitch well, applied themselves and batted long. They knew the surface would deteriorate. 

Once India got past 400, the pressure was always on Australia. Particularly this line-up, without David Warner and Steven Smith.

And on a surface where the batsmen found it hard to judge bounce, Bumrah, with his back-of-a-length lift can be particularly lethal. 

The Aussies struggled to pick his whippy, quick-arm action and Bumrah, mixed his short-pitched deliveries with deadly yorkers of speed variations.

Blown away

His six for 33 — Australia was blown away for 151 in its first innings — settled the issue. With a 292-run lead, India was virtually home.

After this point, on a track where the footmarks became larger, making left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja a factor too, and despite the irrepressible Pat Cummins’ heroics with the ball and bat, there was going to be only one winner. 

India will now seek to make history in Sydney.

Scoreboard

INDIA — 1ST INNINGS: 443 for seven decl.

AUSTRALIA 1ST INNINGS: 151

INDIA — 2ND INNINGS: 106 for eight decl.

AUSTRALIA 2ND INNINGS Marcus Harris c Mayank b Jadeja 13 (27b, 1x4) , Aaron Finch c Kohli b Bumrah 3 (4b) , Usman Khawaja lbw Shami 33 (59b, 4x4, 1x6) , Shaun Marsh lbw b Bumrah 44 (72b, 4x4, 1x6) , Travis Head lbw b Ishant 34 (92b, 2x4) , Mitchell Marsh c Kohli b Jadeja 10 (21b, 1x6) , Tim Paine c Pant b Jadeja 26 (67b, 4x4) , Pat Cummins c Pujara b Bumrah 63 (114b, 5x4, 1x6) , Mitchell Starc b Shami 18 (27b, 2x4) , Nathan Lyon c Pant b Ishant 5 (50b) , Josh Hazlewood (not out) 0 (4b) ; Extras (b-2, lb-6, w-2): 10. Total (in 89.3 overs): 261.

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-6 (Finch, 1.2 overs), 2-33 (Harris, 9.2), 3-63 (Khawaja, 20.6), 4-114 (Shaun Marsh, 32.2), 5-135 (Mitchell Marsh, 39.1), 6-157 (Head, 50.3), 7-176 (Paine, 61.3), 8-215 (Starc, 70.5), 9-261 (Cummins). 

INDIA BOWLING: Ishant 14.3-1-40-2, Bumrah 19-3-53-3, Jadeja 32-6-82-3, Shami 21-2-71-2, Vihari 3-1-7-0.

MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Jasprit Bumrah

India won by 137 runs to take a 2-1 lead in the four-Test series


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