Australia were on the receiving end of India’s dominance in the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy for the second match in a row as they lost by six wickets in the Delhi Test on Sunday. The hosts not only retained the Border Gavaskar Trophy after taking a 2-0 lead, they did so by responding superbly to being put under pressure by Australia.

And with it, they also continued their brilliant home record in Test cricket.

IND v AUS: Reactions as India defeat Australia by six wickets – ‘Fortress Delhi remains standing’

For all the talk about pitches, it was actually Australia’s lack of application and India’s superior skill-set on spinning tracks that proved to be the reason for why both the Nagpur and Delhi Tests ended inside three days.

Here are three takeaways from the Delhi Test:

Axar Patel’s rise

Because of his rise as a batter, Axar Patel has kept his place ahead of Kuldeep Yadav, a wrist-spinning option. The spinning all-rounder combination with Ashwin Ravichandran and Ravindra Jadeja has been exemplary. Patel batted alongside Ashwin (37), scoring a game-changing 74 in the second Test against Australia on Saturday. That followed after his handy 84 in Nagpur.

Nathan Lyon, rightly said in a press conference, “They are not lower order – Axar, Ash could easily bat in top 6 anywhere in the world, they are not lower order, India have a long top order.”

Axar’s shot-making was brilliant in the 114-run stand for the ninth wicket to help India reach 262, which was just one run shy of Australia’s first innings total. Analysing his contribution in the Test match, Rahul Dravid said, “This Test match moved up and down, but [Sunday] morning it moved really quickly for us. I think it was the partnership between Axar and Ashwin that changed things. We wanted to chase something close to 200-225 and that partnership enabled us to get back, or we’d have been trailing,”

Axar also dissected his own change in approach in the press conference, saying: “I am a spinner too, so I feel I know how it is when someone has trouble facing me. Like batters do against me, I try to defend and make the spinner try different things. In situations like that, the bowler in my head, makes me bat differently. When I was with Delhi Capitals, I used to speak to Ricky Ponting about ways to improve.”

Ravi Shastri has also spoken on air about Axar’s been working on his batting and a lot of it is about finding the belief.

Axar added, “I used to leave the job half done when I batted, score 30-40 runs but not finish the game. It has got to do with the mindset, how you are thinking when faced with a particular task. It happens with all-rounders, that you take some wickets and think the job is done and eventually, become casual while batting. So now, when I am batting well, I back myself to carry on and finish the match.”

The iconic Ashwin-Jadeja duo

Skipper Rohit Sharma acknowledged that it is a big plus to have a batting line-up as deep as possible and that the Indians are consciously working on getting that combination. While Axar is a fairly new addition in the spin-all-rounders category, the Ashwin-Jadeja duo has been hunting in pairs for a while and opposition teams are wary of that.

Ashwin provided a match-winning contribution in that partnership with Axar. Before that he bowled a stunning double-wicket over in the first innings where he dismissed the big guns, Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith in the same over. And in the second innings, he once again removed Smith that was key to triggering the collapse.

In Nagpur too, he tore through the line-up in the second innings to finish with 5/37.

Meanwhile, Jadeja recorded his career-best figures (7/42) in the Test match to become only the fifth bowler to register at least 10 five-fors in the format in India. It was back-to-back match-winning performances. In Nagpur, where he was returning months after his injury, he not only scored a crucial 70 but also picked up 5/47 in the first innings.

Rohit, lavish in his praise of the all-rounder, said, “Comebacks are not easy. But the confidence that guy has in his ability is massive and you can see it out on the field. There were times when he was put under pressure but there was no sense of panic from him, he just kept relying on what he is best at and he kept doing that. Yesterday, he was under pressure, he went for more than five runs an over but he knew exactly what the Australian batters were trying to do and he was confident in his ability that he can get those guys out, get them under pressure.”

“The guy has played so much cricket, he has more than 250 wickets... like I said, he is confident of his abilities and I just have to trust that confidence,” he added.

Indian spinners will understandably dominate the wicket-taking charts but the duo have picked up a collective 31 wickets in two matches in comparison to Todd Murphy and Lyon’s 18 wickets. The gulf between the two pairs is huge and that speaks volumes about how much India can rely on the duo in these conditions. It’s almost impossible to top them.

Most wickets in this series after Delhi Test | Courtesy: Disney+Hotstar Screengrab

Top-order concerns

Although Rohit seems to be in good touch, scoring a hundred in Nagpur and getting good starts in Delhi, KL Rahul continues to go through a lean patch and that causes top-order concerns for India. Rahul has failed to go past 23 in his past nine Test innings. Meanwhile, Shubman Gill who is in top form continues to sit on the bench while the likes of Mayank Agarwal, fresh off a mammoth 249 against Saurashtra, and Abhimanyu Easwaran wait in the wings.

The troubles are not recent, though. Since January 2018, Rahul has featured in 26 Test matches and 48 innings has scored 1214 runs at an average of 25.82. Rohit insists that players of his potential will be given an extended run. But considering the options and the record, can India afford to give him that run?

KL Rahul's Test record | Courtesy: Disney+Hotstar Screengrab

Talking about the top-order concerns, Rohit said, “Of late there has been lot of talk about his (KL Rahul) batting. For us as the management, we look at the potential of any individual, not just KL, and players with potential will get extended run. If you look at some of the hundreds he got, for example... batting at Lord’s on a damp wicket, it was one of the best hundreds I have seen. Centurion also, so he has potential and we are backing him.”

He added: “KL Rahul has been one of our most successful overseas openers. He’s got hundred in South Africa, England and we’ll continue to back him. I believe he has the quality and class to come out of this phase.”

There has been no shortage of support for Rahul but he will have to start repaying some of it, if the team persists with him over Gill.

Also read:

World Test Championship standings: India boost their chances of top-two finish with win in Delhi

IND vs AUS: Allan Border, Michael Clarke slam Australia’s batting — ‘panicky, frenetic batting’

IND vs AUS: Rohit Sharma on bowling on tricky Delhi pitch —‘Important not to panic’