India completed a historic Test series victory on Tuesday as they defeated Australia by three wickets in the fourth and final Test at the Gabba in Brisbane. The result meant India clinched the series 2-1 and also retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Led by Virat Kohli, India had won a Test series for the first time on Australian soil back in 2018-’19. With not many backing them to repeat the feat, India overcame one obstacle after another to script their second Test series win Down Under and handed Australia their first defeat at the Gabba in 33 years.
The setbacks began for India even before the series began as senior pacers Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were ruled out of the tour and Rohit Sharma was forced to miss the first two Tests, all due to injuries. But that was just the beginning.
India then went on to register their lowest-ever Test total of 36 all-out in a crushing defeat in the first Test at Adelaide. That was followed by the massive blow of their talismanic skipper leaving for India to attend the birth of his first child.
The bigger hurdles for India, though, were the mind-boggling number of injuries they suffered through the course of the series. Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, KL Rahul, Hanuma Vihari and Ashwin Ravichandran were forced to miss at least one match each in the series due to injuries.
But despite all these inexplicable setbacks, the Indian team simply didn’t give up.
With Ajinkya Rahane taking over as captain, they first squared-up the series with a resounding win at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the second Test. They followed that up with a courageous, inspiring draw at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the third Test. And finally, they bagged their second win at the Gabba to clinch the series on the back of an incredible team effort.
Even as India kept losing one senior player after another to injuries, they kept finding new heroes every step of the way. Rahane, Vihari, Ashwin, Jadeja, Rishabh Pant, Mohammed Siraj, Shubman Gill, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur – they all made invaluable contributions to India’s cause and were, of course, ably supported by each of their teammates.
A lot of the credit must also go to India’s coaching and support staff for the incredible turnaround. Head coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach Bharat Arun, batting coach Vikram Rathour, physiotherapist Nitin Patel and the rest of the team management did a remarkable job in helping the players bounce back from the Adelaide debacle, not get bogged down by the spate of injuries, and go on to do the unthinkable by winning the series.
Here’s a recap of how each of the four Tests panned out in the historic 2020-’21 Test series between India and Australia:
India won the toss and opted to bat first at the Adelaide Oval. Pacers Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins were on the money as Australia kept chipping away with wickets but thanks to a brilliant 74 by captain Kohli, India managed to score 244. In reply, Australia rode on a fine innings from their captain Tim Paine (73 not-out) to recover from a collapse and post 191 after a brilliant four-for by Ashwin.
However, what followed is something every Indian cricket fan would want to forget but most-likely won’t ever be able to. In what was a surreal morning of cricket at Adelaide, India kept losing wickets in a procession as Cummins (4/21) and Josh Hazlewood (5/8) ran riot. India finished with 36/9, their lowest-ever score in Test cricket, and Australia went on to register a thumping eight-wicket win.
After the Adelaide result, Kohli’s subsequent departure and Shami’s ouster due to an injury on his forearm, many reckoned India would fall apart and be swept in the series. But with Rahane taking over the reins, the visitors mounted a fightback that will be spoken about for many, many years.
Australia won the toss and elected to bat first at the MCG but struggled to string together partnerships. Bumrah starred with a four-for as the hosts were bowled-out for just 195. India then rode on a sublime century by Rahane, who showed great character in leading the team from the front, and posted a total of 326.
Paine and Co then struggled with the bat in the second innings as well and could only manage a total of 200. With just 70 runs to get, India notched-up an with-wicket victory of their own as Gill and Rahane closed-out the win with an unbeaten stand for the third wicket.
The third Test of the series saw senior opener David Warner take his place at the top of the Australian batting order, and alongside him was debutant Will Pucovski. The hosts won the toss and opted to bat once again and rode on fine efforts from Pucovski (62), Marnus Labuschagne (91) and Steve Smith (131) to post a total of 338/10.
India started well in their first innings, with Gill and Pujara getting half-centuries, but the rest of the batting order didn’t contribute enough and the visitors were bowled-out for 244. Australia then upped the ante and with Labuschagne (73), Smith (81), Cameron Green (84) and Paine (39*) firing, they managed to get to 312/6 and declare.
India were then left with a mountain to climb, which was to bat for nearly a day-and-a-half to save the Test match. A half-century by Rohit and a 31 by Gill gave India a decent start. Pujara then held firm at one end as Pant launched a stunning counter-attack on the Aussies. But Pujara (77) and Pant (97) fell before tea on day five and India still had plenty to do.
However, as had been the case a number of times in the series up until then, India’s players raised their hands when the chips were down. This time it was the turn of Vihari, who had pulled his hamstring, and Ashwin, who had been fighting back spasms since the day before, to make heroic contributions for the visitors. Vihari (23* off 161) and Ashwin (39* off 128) put on an unbeaten partnership of 62 runs for the sixth wicket and batted through the entire final session to help their team earn an unforgettable draw.
Finally, the action shifted to Brisbane with the series tied at 1-1 and all to play for. Australia hadn’t lost at the Gabba in 33 years and with Vihari, Jadeja and Ashwin missing out due to injures, India were the firm underdogs going into the contest. They had two debutants for the Test – Sundar and T Natarajan.
Yet again, it was Australia who won the toss and elected to bat. The hosts rode on an impressive 108 by Labuschagne and a fifty by Paine to post a solid total of 369. For India, Sundar, Natarajan and Thakur were the pick of the bowlers as they bagged three wickets each.
In reply, India were in all sorts of trouble at 186/6 as Hazlewood led the charge for Australia. But what followed was yet another sensational fightback by India. Sundar and Thakur got together at the crease to add 123 runs for the seventh wicket. The duo mixed caution with aggression brilliantly to bring their team back in the contest and help India finish with 336.
Australia then tried to build on their slender lead by playing aggressively in their second innings. Smith scored another half-century (55 off 74) but the hosts were bowled out for 294 with four overs left on day four.
After impressing with the bat, Thakur stepped up with the ball too and picked a four-for. But it was Siraj who made the biggest contribution by picking the key Australian wickets and finishing with his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket. In just his third match, the 26-year-old right-arm pacer had done a remarkable job of leading the Indian bowling attack.
India were then left with a target of 328 runs to win. There was just the final day’s play left with rain affecting the match throughout. India needed just a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, whereas Australia had to go for the win.
However, India rode on superb performances from Gill (91), Pujara (56) and Pant (89*) to finish off the chase in the dying moments of the day. Not many expected India to go for the win but they showed tremendous skill and courage to go all in and get the job done. Pujara was solid as always and he was backed up by some stunning strokeplay from Gill and Pant. While the former set the tone at the top of the order, the latter showed immense maturity in staying till the end and taking his team to an iconic three-wicket win to clinch the series.