For the first time in the history of cricket, an Indian cricket team finished their tour of Australia without losing any of the series they played, across formats.
Virat Kohli’s India won their first Test series in Australia since they began touring Down Under in 1947-48. That was preceded by a drawn T20I series and followed by India’s first ever bilateral One-Day International series win Down Under (not including the best-of-three finals in the CB series in 2009).
Here’s how a memorable tour Down Under unfolded.
The T20I series - An appetizer
In what was the only match played on the tour in Brisbane, India were defeated in a close encounter to begin their campaign. With a rain-marred match in Brisbane reduced to 17 overs, the visitors were set 174 to win under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern system after the hosts made 158-4, Glenn Maxwell top-scoring with 46.
India needed 13 off the last over from Marcus Stoinis, but in a desperate bid to get the runs two wickets fell and they missed the target. After Shikhar Dhawan’s blistering innings, Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik needed to score 78 runs off 36 balls. They whittled it down to set up a nail-biting finish before succumbing to the pressure. By all accounts, Kohli and Co appeared a bit jet-lagged.
The second match saw more rain, this time serious enough for the game to be called off after 19 overs in Australia’s innings in Melbourne. The hosts could consider themselves lucky as they stuttered to 132/7, courtesy some poor shot selection. Ben McDermott was the one adding respectability to the total, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Khaleel Ahmed took two wickets each. It was a get-out-of-jail-free card for Australia as weather ensured they would not lose the series.
The final game of the series saw the definitive arrival of King Kohli. After losing the toss and being told to bowl, India restricted Australia to 164-6, with all-rounder Krunal Pandya taking four wickets. It was then a Kohli masterclass (61* with two fours and two sixes) that saw India win in the last over.
The curtain raiser was done away with, it was time for the main event.
Adelaide Test - India won by 31 runs
It did not start well for India. After 10.3 overs, the scoreboard read 19/3 and most worryingly, Kohli was already back in the pavilion. A feeling of “here we go again” was inevitable among India fans.
But from there India scored 250 and that was built on the back of methodical Cheteshwar Pujara’s grinding 123. It set the tone for what was to follow in the summer.
Josh Hazlewood was the pick of the Australia bowlers with 3-52. In reply, Australia were skittled for 235 with Travis Head’s 72 – his highest Test score – the highlight.
Pujara was again the hero for India with a dogged second innings 71 while vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane contributed 70 in their 307.
It left Australia requiring a record run chase of 323 at Adelaide Oval. They gallantly battled to 291, with Shaun Marsh knocking 60 in a tense finale. But India came out on top to win their first Test in Australia for a decade.
Wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant made history by matching the record of 11 catches in a Test held by England’s Jack Russell and South Africa’s AB de Villiers.
Read more: From Pujara to Ashwin — for India, the Test specialists came to the party at Adelaide
Perth Test - Australia won by 146 runs
It is, in hindsight, bit of a shame that arguably the best display of batsmanship across the entire tour (both sides combined) ended up being in a losing cause. Virat Kohli’s century in Perth is potentially the most compelling effort in his already glittering resume, but India paid the price for some bizarre selection calls.
A stylish 70 from rookie opener Marcus Harris and 58 by Head helped Australia accumulate 326 in their first innings, with the last four wickets falling for just 16 runs. Paceman Ishant Sharma took 4-41.
India could only manage 283 in reply, despite captain Kohli making his 25th Test century, with spinner Nathan Lyon claiming five wickets.
In compiling 123, Kohli became the second-fastest player to reach 25 Test centuries in terms of innings, behind only Don Bradman. He also joined Sachin Tendulkar as the only Indian batsmen to have scored six Test centuries in Australia.
In Australia’s second innings Mohammed ‘second innings’ Shami claimed a career-best 6-56, as the hosts were bowled out for 243, setting India 287 to win. Usman Khawaja top-scored with 72.
But India’s batsmen failed to fire in the chase and were all out for 140, handing Australia their first Test win since the ball-tampering scandal in March.
Melbourne Test - India won by 137 runs
India dumped under-performing openers Murali Vijay and KL Rahul, and new-boy Mayank Agarwal stepped up to the mark, making 76 on debut in front of a packed MCG on Boxing Day.
But it was Pujara again who was the rock, making 106 in their first innings score of 443-7 declared. Kohli chipped in with a patient 82 as the pair wore down Australia’s bowlers.
The home team’s batsmen capitulated in reply, all out for 151 with the devastating Jasprit Bumrah recording stunning figures of 6-33, with the highlight being a slower ball to dismiss Shaun Marsh.
India, declining to enforce the follow-on, scraped together to 106-8 declared on a deteriorating pitch to set Australia an unlikely 399 – a record chase at Melbourne – to win. Pat Cummins took a career-best 6-27.
Despite a lively 63 from Cummins, Australia’s batsmen again failed to rise to the challenge and were all out for 261 to give India an unbeatable 2-1 series lead.
But the job was not done yet.
Sydney Test - Match drawn
Kohli again won the toss and batted on a flat wicket, with Pujara once more proving his credentials as perhaps the most reliable number three in the world as he made a stoic 193. Pant added a lively 159 not out before a declaration was called at 622 for seven.
Australia blew a strong start with yet another top-order batting collapse, and in a rain-hit Test were bowled out for 300. Opener Marcus Harris made 79 while spinner Kuldeep Yadav grabbed 5-99.
They were forced to follow on at home for the first time in 30 years. But their second innings was curtailed by bad light almost immediately, with the score at 6 for no wicket after just four overs, and the players didn’t return as the entire last day was lost to rain.
The rest (of the game) was (India waiting to seal their spot in the) history (books).
Read more: Kohli’s India might just have found a template for world dominance
A quick-statistical round-up of the Test series:
The ODI series — When Dhoni dominated column inches
Dropped for the shortest format, and coming off a two-month break, MS Dhoni was the focus of most preview discussions for the ODI series. Is he still good enough? Why was Rishabh Pant sent back? Will India regret sticking with him in the middle order?
At the end of the three matches, the debate has shown no sign of abating. It’s more polarized, if anything. But for Dhoni himself, it might not matter that much as he walked away with the player of the series award for his three consecutive half-centuries.
Australia fended off an explosive century from Rohit Sharma to post a morale-boosting 34-run victory over India in the first one-day international in Sydney. The Australians made 288 for five off their 50 overs after winning the toss and restricted India to 254 for nine. Sharma blasted 133 off 129 balls in a scintillating effort to keep India in the contest, while man-of-the-match Jhye Richardson took four for 26 for Australia.
The talking point was, incidentally, a 96-ball 51 by Dhoni.
But that was as good as it got for Aaron Finch and Co in their retro kits.
Dhoni, rallying around Kohli and Karthik, steered India to a six-wicket victory over Australia in the second one-day international to level the series in Adelaide on Tuesday.
Former skipper Dhoni guided India across the line with four balls to spare to back up a dazzling century from his captain. India successfully chased down a target of 299 runs set by Australia who scored 298 for nine with Shaun Marsh scoring 131 off 123 balls.
The sojourn Down Under was finished off in style (see what we did there?) by Dhoni as India cruised in third gear to a seven-wicket victory to clinch their one-day international series against Australia in Melbourne.
The unflappable veteran wicketkeeper hit his third half-century of the three-game series to again prove the difference after his match-winning knock in the second game in Adelaide.
The 37-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman kept his usual cool during an unbeaten 87 off 114 balls as India chased down Australia’s 230 with four balls to spare at MCG. The player of the match was Yuzvendra Chahal, for registering the joint-best ODI bowling figures by a visiting bowler in Australia.
The final say, however, belonged to Dhoni.
It brought down the curtains on a hugely-successful tour of Australia and made it a summer to remember for Indian cricket and their fans.
(With AFP inputs)
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