India have won their first ever test series on Australian soil!! Let it sink in!!
The Sydney rain did spoil the test match, but it did not spoil the Indian party. Many Indian fans have been waiting for this day, since very long. Granted that this Australian side was depleted by the absence of their key batsmen; but, the Aussies brought it upon themselves. India deserved to win this series and the record books will speak thus.
We, the fans, can now justify to our Moms and Dads, why getting up early in the morning to watch TV isn’t a futile activity after all!!
India went into the Sydney test needing only a draw to create history on Aussie soil. Even though the test was marred by rain and ended in a draw, there is enough to talk about both the team’s performances.
What stood out?
The Indian batting team put up a near perfect demonstration of test batting on a flat pitch in SCG. On the first day, the pitch did offer some bounce and movement owing to the moisture and the grass cover on the pitch. Except for Rahul, the other batsmen countered this threat effectively and set the platform up for a mammoth score.
Mayank Agrawal showed, once again, that he belongs at this level. His decisive footwork was the stand out feature of his innings. Lyon has not looked the same bowler, since the time Mayank and Pujara blunted him in MCG. Once the batsmen started to use their feet, Lyon could no longer get into a rhythm targeting the rough area outside the right hander’s off stump.
Coming to Pujara, we have exhausted all the superlatives to describe his performances in this series. What can one say about his innings in SCG? Looking at the way the Aussies bowled to him, I don’t think they had any specific plan to get him out. Hope seemed to be Paine’s strategy to get him out. Enough said!
Rishabh played the most mature innings that one has seen him play in this series. He showed glimpses of maturity in the MCG test itself. In the earlier test matches, he would over attack and perish. In the last two test matches, he eliminated that reckless shot and made valuable contributions. In this SCG innings, Rishabh showed that he can pace his innings well and make big runs at No.7. Rishabh’s develoment is great news for the team, if Virat is forced to go with 5 bowlers in some of the future test matches.
Australian team and some in the media cribbed about flat pitches being offered to India at MCG and SCG. But, the Indian bowling unit disproved this notion by picking up 30 wickets in the three innings, restricting Australia to under 300 runs on each occasion. Here at the SCG, Bumrah and Shami ran in mixing their lengths and their pace to keep the Aussie batsmen guessing. Jadeja and Kuldeep, flighted the ball and got the ball to turn.
Kuldeep got his much deserved fifer at SCG in front of his idol, Shane Warne. The SCG test was his first test match on tour, but he was ‘on-the-money’ from the start. The way he patiently set up Khawaja and Paine, shows that he is ready for test cricket. Virat will have problems of plenty, when he sits down to pick his two spinners for the home series against South Africa later this year!
Bumrah’s use of the yorker in test matches, has been wonderful. Not only does he bowl it well, he also uses it appropriately. The face of Marnus Labuschagne, after he played out that 147 kmph yorker, showed the respect and ‘wow’ that Bumrah commands in the opposition ranks.
In the first innings, Marcus Harris showed why he is a batsman that Australia will invest in for the future. He played some delectable cut shots off the fast bowlers. He seems to just caress the ball to the square boundary rather than cut it ferociously like a Greenidge or a David Boon would. However, in the future, his front foot play will be tested by opposition bowlers as an area of weakness.
Marnus Labuschagne, in his brief innings of 38, showed that he can be a class player. Some of his drives were beautiful to watch. The straight drive that he played off Shami, just before he got out, was out of the top drawer. I am sure we will see more of Marnus in the future.
Nothing worked for the Australian bowling in this test match. Even the lion-hearted Pat Cummins, looked tired during this test match.
Australia should stop counting Marnus Labuschagne as a bowler. Unless, half trackers count as a class of bowling in the future!
Virat Kohli’s captaincy
Virat Kohli, the batsman, so dominates our mind space that we have missed his development as a Captain, on the field. Like Michael Clarke said on the air, it is easy to set fields when the pitch is seaming or spinning. But on a flat pitch, the Captain’s field settings, tactics and his plans with the bowlers become decisive. This is the area where Virat stood out in the SCG test. The way he got Marnus Labuschagne out in the first innings, is a clear demonstration of how field placements and changes induce mistakes. The same can be said about Khawaja’s dismissal as well.
The Sydney test might have ended in a tame draw, but the scenes at the end of the match will be savored by Indian cricket fans for generations. The importance of this win can be gauged by the statements made by Virat and Ravi. They reckon that this win is bigger than their World cup triumphs!
Pujara, quite deservedly, was named the Player of the match and the Player of the series. We will remember this series as the Pujara series, for future references.
I remember the days, when we used to discuss that if India had not been partitioned, we would have had a world-beating team comprising Indian batsmen and Pakistani bowlers. Those days are gone now. We have a bowling squad that is the envy of other teams. We can stop wondering about how Pakistan produces fast bowlers and delight in how our country has produced Bumrah, Shami, Ishant and Co. It is a time to rejoice, like no other!!