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IND vs Aus 1st Test Day 5: Lyon Scripts Incredible Australian Win

By on December 13, 2014

Australia 7 for 517 dec (Smith 162*, Warner 145, Clarke 128) and 5 for 290 dec (Warner 102) beat India 444 (Kohli 115, Lyon 5-134) and 315 (Kohli 141, Vijay 99, Lyon 7-152) by 48 runs…

A gladiatorial battle between bat and ball took place on the final day at Adelaide Oval, where a Test that had begun in sorrow a week after the death of Phillip Hughes was given a dazzling finish that highlighted the greatness of this game.

India’s champion was Virat Kohli, a debutant captain with his sight fixed on a formidable target while all but one of his team-mates failed to show similar steel. For Australia, it was the spindly Nathan Lyon, suffering unsympathetic umpiring to single-handedly drag his team back into the contest, making up for the bluntness of his faster colleagues.

IND vs Aus 1st Test Day 5: Nathan LyonThe Test was decided when Kohli pulled Lyon and was caught at deep midwicket, leaving Australia with 60 to defend and three wickets to take. They won by 48 runs.

Having dismissed only two batsmen while conceding 205 runs in the first two sessions, and left with only 158 to protect in at least 37 overs after tea, Australia claimed the last eight Indian wickets for 73.

Lyon took six of them to finish the Test with career-best match figures of 12 for 286, preventing India from stealing a match they had been behind in for four days.

Kohli graciously acknowledged as much after the game, but had left nothing in reserve while trying to pull off what would have been the seventh highest successful chase in Test cricket.

He become the second batsman – after Greg Chappell – to make two hundreds in a Test on captaincy debut.

The cricket, however, was affected by poor umpiring. While there were some sharp decisions made over the first four days, the standards slipped drastically on the fifth, but perhaps unwittingly facilitated such an extraordinary contest. Ian Gould adjudged Shikhar Dhawan caught behind for 9, though the Mitchell Johnson bouncer had deflected off the batsman’s shoulder.

Marais Erasmus was Lyon’s bane, failing to give Vijay lbw when he did not offer a shot on 24 and 64, and Kohli on 85. Erasmus then deemed Ajinkya Rahane caught at short leg, though Lyon’s offbreak had bounced off the top of the front pad. The sight of Lyon imploring theatrically, often on his knees, was a recurring one.

How did it come to such a finish? Clarke had declared before play began, setting India a target of 364 and giving his bowlers 98 overs to take ten wickets. Johnson and Lyon reduced India to 2 for 57, but the visitors recovered to 105 without further damage at lunch.

Kohli and Vijay then batted through the entire second session and scored 100 runs, and Australia’s wicketless plight was exacerbated by the loss of Clarke to a hamstring injury that forced him off the field for the rest of the day, and perhaps the rest of the series.

Brad Haddin took over the leadership. So while the day had begun with an Australian win the most likely result, followed by a draw, and then an Indian victory, the final session started with that order reversed.

Lyon was put under pressure immediately after tea. His first four overs cost 25 runs as Vijay punctuated the steady drip-drip of ones and twos with a charge-and-smash over the long-on boundary and an artistic flick from outside off stump into the gap at deep midwicket.

The second shot took Vijay to 99, and Lyon, despite so many decisions going against him, had the grace to applaud the skill exhibited. In the next over, from Ryan Harris, Kohli pushed towards mid-off and sprinted the single to bring up his second hundred of the Test, from 135 balls. His celebrations were not angry this time.

By the time Lyon had Vijay on strike again, the batsman had played six nervous balls on 99. Lyon bowled an offbreak – the sort he had been delivering all day for scant reward – that pitched in the rough outside off and spat sharply back at the right-hander.

Vijay went deep into his crease, right in front of his stumps, and missed the flick. Erasmus was finally convinced and an lbw appeal was upheld for the first time in the match.

India’s second-wicket partnership was broken on 185 scored at 3.71 to the over; they were 122 from victory and had seven wickets in hand. Five balls later, Rahane was sawn off. There was no increment in the total.

Kohli now faced an entirely different reality, one driven home by Rohit Sharma’s struggles to cope with the conditions. It firmed his aggression. Kohli caressed Harris through extra cover, whipped Lyon through mid-on, and steered and pulled Johnson for consecutive boundaries, bringing India within less than 100 runs of victory. He also passed his previous best Test score of 119.

Lyon would not be cowed. He delivered a craftily flighted offbreak that dipped as Rohit lunged outside off stump to defend. It spun sharply, smacked the glove and lobbed towards the alert David Warner at leg slip. India still needed 85; Australia were a wicket away from the tail.

Having watched Kohli slap Lyon against the turn to the cover boundary, Wriddhiman Saha also attacked the offspinner, following a six over long-on with a sweep to the square-leg boundary. Lyon was undeterred and continued to toss it up, and a ball later Saha was beaten on the charge and bowled.

The game had now decisively swung in Australia’s favour. Only Kohli remained. He had swept Lyon authoritatively all day – not conventional sweeps but hard, flat-batted ones – and he did so again to keep India’s hope flickering. Lyon’s next ball was short – it was one of his worse deliveries – and Kohli went back to pull.

The aim was to reduce the 60 runs required by four or six, but he dragged the shot towards Mitchell Marsh at deep midwicket.

Marsh ran in, sank to his knees, and smiled in relief after taking the catch. Kohli stood for an age in his crease, crestfallen over his bat, as the Australians rejoiced at the match-winning wicket. They knew surviving 16.2 overs was a task beyond India’s tail.

Kohli walked off to a rousing ovation. Not long after, the Adelaide Oval crowd rose again after India’s last wicket had fallen to applaud Lyon and his team-mates as they left the field.

The Test had been given a memorable finish, but Kohli’s feat on the fifth day had disguised the mismatch it had been over the first four. India’s bowlers had managed to take only 12 wickets. Lyon had matched that on his own.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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