India captain Rohit Sharma claimed his team was not ‘brave’ enough when it came to dealing with the Australian bowlers, after the visitors came up with a nine-wicket win over India in Indore in the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Sharma and Co posted a 76 run target for the Australians on the third day of the Test. Despite Ravichandran Ashwin striking on the second ball of the innings to dismiss Usman Khawaja, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne stayed patient to pull one back for the visitors. India leads 2-1 in the four-Test series.
IND v AUS, Indore Test: Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne power Aussies to 9-wicket win – ‘Great win’
Nathan Lyon’s performance was crucial for Australia’s success. The 35-year-old off-spinner ended the Test with figures of 3/35 in the first innings, and a player of the match award-winning 8/64 in the second.
“When you are playing on challenging pitches you have to brave. I felt we allowed their bowlers to bowl on one particular spot. Not taking any credit away from their bowlers, especially Nathan Lyon, he was brilliant and kept challenging us,” Sharma said during the post-match presentation.
“He kept hitting the right length. When the bowler is trying to do that, you have to come out with your plans and do different things, be a bit brave, which I think we were not. Things happen like that.”
India won the toss and opted to bat. But the Australian bowlers wreaked havoc through the hosts’ lineup and dismissed them for 109 in the first innings. The visitors were then bowled out for 197, only for the Indian lineup to once again fail with the bat. Cheteshwar Pujara however, did serve as a source of resistance, putting up a gritty 59 off 142 balls for the Indians.
“When you lose a Test match there are a lot of things which didn’t go your way. We didn’t bat really well in the first innings and we understand how important it is to put runs on the board. Once they got an 80-90 run lead, we had to produce another innings with the bat and we were not able to do that. If we had batted well in the first innings then things would have been different,” Sharma added.
“We need to regroup and we need to try and understand what we did well in the first two Test matches. We have to understand that no matter what the pitches are, we need to come out and do the job and follow the plans.
“One odd game can happen like that when things don’t fall into place. But it’s all about everyone coming together and chipping in with whatever they have. This game was all about that. We wanted a few guys to put their hand up and take the team through, but it didn’t happen. You can’t expect it to happen every match, where the things you want to happen will happen, you will falter in your plans and that’s exactly what happened in this game. We were behind and we didn’t adapt the way we wanted to.”
For Australia, meanwhile, everything worked out as planned.
“I think the first day, losing the toss and having to bowl first, our bowlers just got the ball in the right areas and put India under pressure. We took wickets. I think (Matthew) Kuhnemann (who finished the innings with figures of 5/16) was really good that first day, all of our bowlers contributed together,” said Australia’s stand-in captain Steve Smith.
“First innings with the batting, I thought Usman (Khawaja, scoring 60 off 147) was outstanding, the way he played was amazing and he’s been really good for us throughout this series. There were a few partnerships as well, with Marnus, that really set us up to get ahead as well.
“Yesterday, obviously, India fought back with the ball, we had a bit of a collapse at the end. Umesh (Yadav) bowled very nicely. I thought we had to toil really hard. (Pujara) played an outstanding innings with a few guys batting around him. But we really stuck at it. Nathan got all the rewards with eight wickets, but I think our bowlers collectively were very good. Todd Murphy went around a run an over, that kept really good pressure on. (Mitchell) Starc came in and got a break through, and Kuhnemann got the big wicket of Virat. It was a complete performance at the end.”
The win is not enough for the Australians to win the series, but it did earn them a spot in the World Test Championship Final, which is scheduled to take place in June at The Oval in London.
“We’re really proud to have clinched a spot in the WTC in a couple of months’ time. But for us it was just about playing really good cricket. The way we fought back here and played our style for longer periods of time than perhaps we did in the first two Test matches, hopefully we can put up a similar performance and finish the series as well,” Smith added.
Individually, Lyon became the highest wicket taker against India, with 113 scalps to his name.
Nathan Lyon on eight-wicket haul – ‘One of my career highlights’
“I don’t have all the skills and all the tricks of the trade, but one thing I do have is belief in my stock ball and I think that’s the biggest thing in world cricket. If you believe in your best ball over and over, and you’re able to challenge the best players in the world for long periods of time, then hopefully you have success,” he said.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be able to challenge some of the best to play the game, the likes of Virat, Pujara and some of the other guys. I just love to challenge myself at this level and get a thrill out of that.”
The final match of the Test series takes place in Ahmedabad, starting March 9. It will be followed by a three-match One-Day International series.