TUE 03 Aug, 2021
Sports

India have it easy on Australia in Boxing Day Test

Bowled out for 36. Virat Kohli goes home. Mohammed Shami out of the tour. Umesh Yadav limps from the attack. India had to overcome so much that their victory at the MCG, achieved midway through the fourth day by eight wickets, will forever have a part in their cricket folklore. Whether it is part of something even greater will depend on the next three weeks, but for now they can reflect on one of the great bounceback victories.
The early loss of two wickets will have left India grateful - and Australia rueful - that the target wasn't in three-figures, but it never threatened to be become nervy and fittingly it was Ajinkya Rahane who secured the winning run. It is three wins in three Tests as captain for him and rarely can a team have gone from such a low to such a high in such a short period time.

Australia's lower order made them work for the final four wickets during the morning session but they could never break free of the stranglehold on their scoring, so by the time R Ashwin wrapped up the innings on the stroke of a delayed lunch the lead stood at only 69. The final tally of 200 in 103.1 overs was their slowest Test innings on home soil since 1986 and they managed just 10 boundaries and this was the first home Test since 1988, against West Indies also at the MCG, where they did not manage an individual half-century
The ghosts of 36 were just about looming, but it would have needed a miracle. Still, when the struggling Mayank Agarwal edged a big drive off Mitchell Starc and Cheteshwar Pujara got a flat-foot outside edge to gully it momentarily lifted the occasion. While not having a bearing on this match, it was the third time in four innings that Pat Cummins had removed Pujara.

A brace of boundaries by Shubman Gill, who played another attractive innings, chipped into the target and there was a dismissiveness in the on-the-up drive played by Rahane, the prime architect of India's victory, against Josh Hazlewood as the target grew near followed by a pull from Gill off the same bowler.

Australia had resumed just two runs ahead and while Cummins and Cameron Green survived until the second new ball the scoreboard went nowhere - 16 runs in the 14 overs. The harder ball then provided the breakthrough when Jasprit Bumrah bounced out Cummins although the fact India did not race through the rest of the batting went on to highlight Australia's problems higher up the order.
Green played very well, looking as assured as any of the top order had in the innings, defending with a solid front foot stride and occasionally showing his strokeplay. A first Test fifty was looming when he was cramped for room by a short delivery from Mohammed Siraj, splicing a pull to midwicket, which removed the last realistic chance of Australia setting a target to really challenge India.

Starc thought he was caught at slip on 9, so much so that he was two thirds of way to the rope having forlornly reviewed when the DRS showed he had hit his boot as the ball ballooned off the pad, but Nathan Lyon gloved down the leg side a few moments later to leave Australia nine down. Lunch was delayed as the final pair clung on before Hazlewood was finally befuddled by Ashwin when he left a delivery that clipped off stump.
 

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