A clinical India mopped up Australia’s tail to win the third Test in Melbourne on Sunday by 137 runs and take an unassailable 2-1 lead into the final clash at Sydney.
The home team resumed at 258 for eight after the morning session was wiped out by rain in their unlikely quest to hunt down a huge 399, which would have been a record fourth-innings chase at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
No team before had made more than 332 to win, and that was in 1928 by England.
But they fell well short of the target, with Jasprit Bumrah taking the key wicket of dogged Pat Cummins and Ishant Sharma snaring Nathan Lyon to secure the emphatic win.
India, the world’s top-ranked nation, are now zeroing in on a first-ever series win Down Under in Sydney later this week, where they only need a draw to smash the long-time jinx.
It is a feat that skipper Virat Kohli has so publicly coveted since his team men arrived in Australia last month.
Tailender Cummins, who is rapidly proving himself to a very capable all-rounder, some even say a future Australia captain, had kept his side in the hunt with an impressive 61 not out on Saturday.
But he only added two more to be out for a career-best 63 to follow his career-best 6-27 with the ball and be one of the few successes for Australia. Lyon added just one to his overnight total.
Paceman Jasprit Bumrah finished with 3-53, following his six-wicket first innings haul, and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja 3-82.
Cummins aside, no other Australian passed 50 in Melbourne, exposing their lack of batting depth and reinforcing how much they are missing the banned Steve Smith and David Warner.
The pair’s year-long suspensions for ball-tampering run out in late March and it is widely believed that they will be reintegrated quickly into the team.
Rock solid India
In contrast, India were disciplined with the rock solid number three Cheteshwar Pujara scoring another century in the first innings and Kohli showing restraint and composure, while debutant Mayank Agarwal impressed at the top of the order with 76 in his first Test knock.
The bedrock for India’s victory was their 443 for seven declared in the first innings, built on the back of Pujara’s 106 and Kohli’s 82.
Spearheaded by the young Bumrah, who reinforced his reputation as one of the world’s top bowlers, Australia were then skittled for just 151.
Kohli declared India’s second innings on 106 for eight, leaving Australia the virtual mission impossible of scoring 399 to win or surviving almost two days for a draw.
Aaron Finch again flopped at the top of the order, throwing his role as a Test opener under more scrutiny with growing speculation that he will be axed.
He played a poor shot to Bumrah and was caught by Kohli for three.
Fellow opener Marcus Harris followed him back to the pavilion for 13 with Usman Khawaja the next to go after a lively 33.
When Shaun Marsh was also trapped leg before by Bumrah for a brisk 44 and his brother Mitch – another candidate for the Sydney chop – fell for 10, Australia’s faint survival hopes were fading fast.
Travis Head put up some resistance with a battling 34 before his stumps were knocked over by Ishant Sharma and when skipper Tim Paine went for 26 it appeared all but over – until Cummins dug in to take the game into a fifth day.