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India vs Australia 3rd Test – Day 5: India Go 3-0 Up With Last-hour Win

By on March 18, 2013

India vs Australia 3rd Test: Shikhar DhawanIndia 499 (Dhawan 187, Vijay 153, Siddle 5-71) and 136 for 4 beat Australia 408 (Starc 99, Smith 92) and 223 (Hughes 69) by six wickets…

Long awaited for India, too little and much too late for Australia. MS Dhoni’s team completed a six-wicket victory in Mohali and regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 3-0 with a Test to play, but not before the tourists had made India scrap for every run. Sachin Tendulkar’s run-out was engineered purely due to the pressure brought to bear by Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc, before a few bold strikes by Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja settled matters.

India’s victory meant they had won three Tests in a series for the first time since Mohammad Azharuddin’s side swept Sri Lanka in as many matches in 1993-94. Australia’s defeat meant they had lost the first three matches of a series for the first time since 1988-89, when Allan Border led his developing side to a 3-1 defeat at home to West Indies, a sobering gap of 25 years.

Like the results in Chennai and Hyderabad, India’s win was built on the guile of their spin bowlers and the verve of their top-order batsmen. Shikhar Dhawan was indisposed on day five due to a jarred hand suffered in the field, but his coruscating debut innings defined the match, making Australia’s 408 appear utterly puny. The Indian bowlers contributed evenly, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Pragyan Ojha sharing the wickets on day five after Bhuvneshwar Kumar had tilted the match decisively towards India by knocking over Australia’s top three on the fourth evening.

The most unsettling thing about the tense way in which the match concluded was that this kind of contest had been so absent from the earlier and more critical passages of the series. Australia may take some solace from the fight displayed in the dying hours of the match, but the mere fact they were left scrapping for a draw that would still have lost them the series underlined how far they have fallen on this tour. It cannot be forgotten that this was a third consecutive hiding inside four days, after the first six hours of this match were lost to rain on Thursday.

In Dhawan’s absence, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Tendulkar all made the handy scores required to win. At no stage did Australia appear likely to win the match, but equally they made no effort to cynically slow the game down. They face an uncertain team selection for the final match in Delhi due to Michael Clarke’s tender back and the looming return of the vice-captain Shane Watson.

For a time it appeared that India’s target would be merely a token amount. Australia slid to 179 for 9 in their second innings, only Phillip Hughes and Brad Haddin offering any kind of prolonged resistance, but Mitchell Starc and Xavier Doherty then hung around for 18.1 overs and 44 runs. Starc’s innings followed his admirable 99 on day three, while Doherty demonstrated his impressively correct technique for a No. 11. Their efforts put those of many of the batsmen to considerable shame – David Warner and Moises Henriques in particular.

Before Starc and Doherty, Hughes and Haddin provided the only token barrier for India’s bowlers. Hughes reached 69 before he was the victim of a questionable lbw shout and Haddin made 30 before he was undone by a perfectly pitched carrom ball from Ashwin, who now has 22 wickets for the series. After the back troubles that curtailed his contribution on day four, Clarke came out to bat at No. 6 but was still visibly restricted by the ailment. His dismissal was notable for a desperately tight call on whether or not Jadeja’s foot had overstepped.

In the morning, Hughes and Nathan Lyon had resumed with Australia still 16 runs short of making India bat again, and Lyon was snapped up, edging Ojha behind, before the deficit was wiped off. Clarke walked to the middle after plenty of back treatment but looked not much more limber for the sleepless night, struggling to use his feet and battling visibly to run between the wickets.

Having made a swift start to his innings on the fourth evening against pace, Hughes again found himself becalmed against spin. In all he spent 35 balls on 53 before a top-edged sweep reaped a couple of runs, and he struggled noticeably to regain the momentum of the previous day. Nonetheless, Hughes fought hard, and it was his captain who fell next.

Most of Clarke’s 18 runs came from leg-side deflections, and his dismissal was to a delivery he attempted to work in that direction, only to nudge a thin edge onto pad and up to short leg. Clarke delayed his exit while the umpires checked on a no-ball, and despite scant evidence Jadeja had landed any of his foot behind the line, the dismissal was rubber stamped.

A few minutes later Hughes was following Clarke, given lbw by Aleem Dar to a ball from Ashwin that pitched marginally in line with the stumps but did not straighten enough to be hitting them. It was a poor decision and a rum twist of fortune for Hughes, who had battled so hard after a dire series. Whatever the merits of the call, it now meant Australia’s innings was swiftly deteriorating.

Henriques and Siddle did not last long, though the latter at least struck a pair of solid blows before playing down the wrong line at an Ojha delivery that plucked off stump. Starc, Haddin and Doherty were left to attempt a salvage operation, but despite their best efforts far too much damage had been done earlier.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo.

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