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India vs Australia | Ten Defining Moments that Turned it for Kohli and his Men

Ashish Pant |January 10, 2019, 2:22 PM IST
India vs Australia | Ten Defining Moments that Turned it for Kohli and his Men

India are basking in the afterglow of their 2-1 series win in Australia, ending a seven-decade drought and making them the first Asian team to win a series in the country. For the Virat Kohli-led outfit, this accomplishment was quite momentous considering how tough Australia have been to beat in their own backyard. Now with the series won, let’s look back at the moments that titled the tide in favour of the Indians over the four Test match series.

Gritty Pujara Silences Critics - Thrice Over

Cheteshwar Pujara

The opening day of the first Test in Adelaide itself showed why Australia had been such a tough challenge for Asian teams. Having lost the toss, the Australian bowlers steamed in at full throttle to reduce India to 19/3, with KL Rahul, M Vijay and Virat Kohli all back in the hut. That soon became 41/4 and the ghosts of all of the past tours Down Under started resurfacing.

However, one man stood tall amidst all the ruins - Cheteshwar Pujara. Coming into bat in just the second over of the match, Pujara steady as ever, went about his business despite seeing wickets fall around him. He stitched important stands with Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant and R Ashwin to finally finish with 123 and help India to 250 - a score which felt out of India's grasp at one point. The visitors eventually won the Test by 31 runs and had Pujara to thank for much of it.

The Indian No.3 then crafted two more centuries in MCG and SCG to finish the series as the highest scorer with 521 runs in four Tests at an average of 74.42. In all, he batted 1258 balls, fourth-highest for anyone who has played a maximum of four Tests in a series and was the major reason behind the dented confidence of the Australian bowling unit.

Agarwal's Inclusion, Vihari's Promotion

Mayank Agarwal raises his bat after making 50 runs against Australia. (Image: AP) Mayank Agarwal raises his bat after making 50 runs against Australia. (Image: AP)

The opening conundrum had troubled India since the tour to England. They had tried out all of Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, Prithvi Shaw and KL Rahul in the opener's slot, and only one among them was a certainty going into the first Test - Prithvi Shaw. The teenager though suffered a ligament injury in the tour match against CA XI and suddenly India found themselves short of options.

Rahul and Vijay opened in the first two games and both of them failed spectacularly. With Shaw failing to recover in time, India sent out a SoS to Mayank Agarwal, who had made quite a name for himself in the domestic circuit, but didn't have any International experience at all.

The visitors having gone down in Perth by 146 runs then further took a risk for the third Test and dropped both Vijay and Rahul. The step as it turned out, paid rich dividends. Agarwal and Vihari were slotted to open the innings and both did their bit. While Vihari scored just 8, he thwarted the Australian pacers for 66 deliveries, and Agarwal looked composed in his debut knock, scoring 76.

Agarwal then scored 42 and 77 in his next two innings to further his case as the leading opener of the team.

That Slower Ball from Bumrah

Picture Credit: AP Picture Credit: AP

India had their backs to the wall going into Melbourne with the series tied 1-1. The batsmen delivered, racking up 443/7 with Pujara and Kohli leading from the front yet again. The bowlers then stepped up to reduce Australia to 53/3 before Shaun Marsh and Travis Head got them going with a 36-run stand for the fourth wicket. The duo looked set to take their side into lunch unscathed but Bumrah had other plans. Last ball before the interval, he pulled out a slower delivery which dipped on Marsh and deceived him all ends up. The left-hander missed it altogether to be trapped lbw for 19.

That was opening which Bumrah needed and soon after the break, he shot through the Australian batting lineup to finish with figures of 6/33 and bundle the hosts for just 151. He returned three wickets in the second innings as well as India took an unassailable 2-1 lead in the four-match series.

India's Pace Trio Outshine Aussie Counterparts

Image: Twitter/@MdShami11 Image: Twitter/@MdShami11

While there was no doubt that India's batting unit was going always going to be stronger than Australia's, what titled the scales even more in the visitor's favour was the way their pace bowlers delivered all through the series.

The trio of Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Bumrah were relentless throughout as they managed 48 wickets between them. In comparison, their more esteemed counterparts in Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood could manage 40. That Tim Paine had to rely more on Nathan Lyon's off-spin throughout the series was probably the most telling indication of India’s superiority in the area.

Blunting Lyon

Twitter/ICC Twitter/ICC

Nathan Lyon was a major thorn in India's flesh last time they were on tour in Australia in 2014-15. He had picked wickets by the bucketful then and threatened to do the same this time as well. He took 16 wickets in the first two Tests and was easily the highest wicket-taker after the opening two Tests.

A change in tactic was needed to blunt Lyon and that was surprisingly provided by the newcomer, Agarwal. He was aggressive from the outset against the off-spinner, barely letting him settle down and used his feet to nullify any spin. The tactic was used brilliantly by Pujara and Rahane as well in the final two outings. In the last two Tests Lyon could only manage five wickets and with his wings clipped, the Indian batsmen managed tall scores at both MCG and SCG.

Kohli-Pujara's Inspired Approach in Melbourne

(AP) (AP)

Going into the third Test on the back of a massive defeat in Perth, India opted for a more conservative approach in Melbourne. They racked up 443/7 in their first innings but that came at just over 2.6 runs per over. Even the more aggressive Kohli chose to be subdued with his 82 coming in 204 balls while Pujara's 106 took 319. It left the Australian great Ricky Ponting questioning the value of Pujara's knock.

However, on the contrary not only did this 170-run partnership between Kohli and Pujara build a solid foundation for India, but it also left the Australian bowlers exhausted which was clearly noticeable in the final Test in Sydney.

Kuldeep's Trickery Unravels Australia

Picture Credit: AP Picture Credit: AP

India had blundered picking both R Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav against England at Lord's back in July 2018 on a surface that had little on offer for spinners. The result - India lost by an innings and 159 runs with Kuldeep ultimately bowling only nine overs in the game, conceding 44 runs without picking up a wicket.

Going into Sydney it was thought that the surface would aid spin but the ghost of Lord's was still haunting India. Will they risk two spinners in an overseas Test again was the question on everyone's lips. They did and didn't it do wonders for them!

The left-arm wrist-spinner was a treat to watch as he outfoxed the Australian batsmen with his wrong'uns and leg-spinners to finish with 5/99 in 31.5 overs.

Pant Outscores & Outbanters Paine in Keepers’ Tussle

Picture Credit: Twitter/BCCI Picture Credit: Twitter/BCCI

There was an air of hilarity each time either of Tim Paine or Rishabh Pant came out to bat. The jibes from behind the stumps from both wicket-keepers were hard to miss so much so that there were times when the broadcasters would ask the commentators to remain silent so the viewers could listen to only what the 'keepers from behind the stumps had to quip.

With gems like Paine's "Do you babysit? I can take my wife to the movies while you watch the kids," to Pant and the Indian wicket-keeper's "temporary captain" jab to Paine, the viewers were kept busy.

While who won the battle of banters might be debatable, with the bat it was Pant all the way. The left-hander amassed 350 runs in four Tests which included a crucial 159* in the final outing while the Australian captain, Paine could only manage 174 runs in the series. This, in the end, proved to be a major reason behind India taking away the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Misfiring Australian Top Order

Travis Head reacts after getting out. (Twitter/ ICC) Travis Head reacts after getting out. (Twitter/ ICC)

A startling stat to emerge from the series was that the highest score by an Australian batsman in the series was lower than that scored by India's No.8. It showed how the batsmen wilted under the onslaught of the Indian pacers, who not once gave them a chance to settle.

In comparison, India had a total five centuries and eight half-centuries in the series while Australia could only manage eight fifties in all.

Win Toss, Win Game

kohli toss

Without undermining India's win, the toss once again remained a major talking point in the series as it did when India had toured England earlier in 2018. All three games were won by the side that won the toss. Presented with the best of the conditions first up, teams that have called correctly have more often than not been on the right side of the result and after their horrendous run in England with the toss, India were grateful that their luck changed down under.

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2 New Zealand 2547 111
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4 England 3778 105
5 Australia 2640 98
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2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
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3 South Africa 4196 262
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