India helped atone for their whitewash in Australia last year by beating Australia 4-0, riding on the back of superlative performances from their young stars.
India helped atone for their whitewash in Australia last year by beating Australia 4-0, riding on the back of superlative performances from their young stars. Their crushing win inside three days in the fourth and final Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla was another example of how India's younger players have stood up in the face of adversity. Here's a look at how Sunday's six-wicket win panned out.
Australia had inflicted deadly scars on India when the two teams met in Australia in 2011-2012. The 0-4 pounding, which came after a 0-4 whitewash in England, was termed as the worst phase in the history of Indian cricket. So when Australia arrived in India, the home team was gung ho to settle the scores and wipe out the horrendous memories of the Australian tour.
The visiting team wasn't the strong unit and India were expected to clinch the series, but few would have predicted that the hosts, coming off a 1-2 loss against England, would execute a whitewash. Australia were hurt by a series of injuries and a few unwarranted controversies which affected their performance on the field. They came to the last Test 0-3 down, having already lost the series, and though their performance was slightly better than before, it couldn't avert a 0-4 licking.
After a few anxious moments on Sunday, India sealed wrapped up the Test by six wickets, thus blanking Australia 4-0 for the first time to reclaim the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. This is Australia's first 0-4 whitewash since 1969-70 when they were pummeled by South Africa, and they have now lost seven consecutive Tests on Indian soil - their worst losing streak in any country ever.
Pujara's pristine pulverization
The 'mini wall', as he is affectionately called, has scored four centuries (including two doubles) in 10 Tests since returning to international cricket last year after a knee injury, but his twin half-centuries at the Kotla would certainly be ranked among his piece de resistance in the years to come. If the surface was a snake-pit, Pujara was a bewitching snake charmer. While all other batsmen from both the teams, with an exception of Peter Siddle, groped for runs, Pujara glided along with ease.
In the first innings, he scored 52 and added 108 runs for the first wicket with Murali Vijay. While Vijay's stay at the crease was shaky, Pujara was sublime. The significance of his innings can be understood from the fact that after he was dismissed, India lost nine wickets for just 164 runs.
Pujara's second-innings 82 off 92 balls was even more enthralling. While Nathan Lyon's claim that even 100 runs could be enough on this pitch was a bit bombastic, most cricket experts conceded that anything above 130 could prove tricky to chase. But Pujara seemed to batting on a different plateau. He skipped down the track to thwack Glenn Maxwell for a boundary through covers and later caressed Mitchell Johnson for three boundaries in an over. On a double-paced track, where the bounce was highly uneven, Pujara's judgement was exceptional. India lost three wickets for five runs but Pujara remained unruffled and guided India home.
Jamboree for Jadeja
Before the series, Ravindra Jadeja was India's most unlikely hero but he foiled popular beliefs by emerging as one of the strongest pillars of the Indian team. He chalked up 24 wickets in the series at a superb strike-rate of 48.3. In the Delhi Test, Jadeja ripped through the Australian batting line-up on a minefield and claimed seven wickets in the match. In the first innings, he dismissed Shane Watson and Maxwell as Australia were bowled out for 262. Later, he contributed with the bat too and chipped in with a vital 43 when India were in a prickly situation.
On Sunday, Australia were looking to eke out a good total in their second innings and give India a daunting total to chase but Jadeja decimated their top-order in a stirring spell. Maxwell was cleaned up by a ball which jagged away after pitching and David Warner and Ed Cowan made the mistake of playing. After lunch, Jadeja castled Steven Smith as the batsman opted to leave an arm ball. The next delivery was floated up and invoked Mitchell Johnson to drive but snaked through the gap and uprooted middle stump.
The creditable part about Jadeja's performance was that he bowled a probing line and let the malevolent pitch do the rest. There were subtle changes in length but the line was invariably middle and off stump. Jadeja walked away with the Man-of-the-Match award.
Ashwin bounces back in style
This series proved a personal triumph for the 26-year-old offspinner who was flayed after his mediocre performance against England at home. He bagged the Man-of-the-Series award by turning over a new leaf and booted out kinks from his bowling armoury. Having taken five wickets in Australia's first innings in New Delhi, Ashwin took out Phillip Hughes and Peter Siddle to finish with seven in the Test.
Ashwin showed signs of improvement from the first day of the series as he didn't try to deploy too many variations, which was a major cause of his undoing against England, and stuck to bowling classical offspin in his initial spell. His variations became more lethal once when he gained rhythm. He ended with 29 wickets, the highest by any bowler from either side, at a strike of 49.4.