Woolloongabba in Brisbane Australia took test cricket to its zenith and glory, during the recently concluded Border-Gavasskar series decider, between India and Australia. Cricket fans across the globe enjoyed the engrossing moments of shifting fortunes where pendulum swung both ways since the day one of the penultimate test match. It was the creme dela creme of test cricket where every ball unfolded suspense and drama. Both teams had their ebbs and flows during the match. It strained the nerves of both the teams. It was a suspense thriller which kept fluctuating like a James Bond mystery movie. Though the better team emerged victorious but it drew back cricket fans to the old awe and passion of test cricket. The first two days belonged to Australia. Marnus Labuschagne stole the show with a tripple figure mark and captain Tim Paine scored a half century to give their total some kind of respectability. For India Natarajan, Thakur and Sundar got three scalps each. And Indian top order was rattled by the charged fast battery of Australia. Indian team was tottering at 186 for six. Australia was looking to grab a sizeable lead. But, the young guns of India viz Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur had other ideas. The duo registered a 123 run stand for the seventh wicket. It brought India back into the game. Indian tail couldn’t wag after the departure of the duo, and, eventually, conceded 33 run lead to Australia. Josh Hazzelwood scalped a five-fifer. Australian openers displayed a beautiful amalgam of attack and defence. Marcus Harris and the flamboyant David Warner stitched an 89 run opening stand. The shoulders of Indian players had begun to droop because the Kangaroos’ lead had crossed the hundred run mark. But, the first innings heroes of Thakur and Sundar dented Australia twice on 89 and 91. Though Labuschagne got a start but couldn’t convert it into a big one. Steve Smith showed some resistance but couldn’t take his team to a comfortable zone. Somehow, Australian managed to score 294 in their second innings. Mohammad Siraj harvests huge dividends for his hard work and talent. He shone with a five wicket haul in the second innings of Australia. The target of 328 was always an uphill task for team India. In the absence of chase specialist; Virat Kohli, the target was looking taller than mountain peak of the Mount Everest. Rain God added flavour to the uncertain character of test cricket with some occasional showers. Chasing three hundred plus score in fourth innings of a test match, is always considered a Herculean job. Adding salt to the injury of Indian team, hitman Rohit Sharma departed cheaply. But, the rock of Gibraltar of Indian team; Chateswar Pujara stood like a leaden wall. Promising young opener, Shubman Gill displayed his remarkable skills, calm and composure to face the new ball. He won the hearts with his exceptional stroke play. His pull shots against feary pacer Mitchell starc were a treat to watch. He along with Pujara laid a strong foundation for the historic Indian victory. But, the Ausie offspinner ; Nathan Lyon had the better of Shubman Gill when the latter edged his stock ball to Steve Smith in the slips. Meanwhile, Chateswar Pujara continued his rock solid defence tactics but kept the scoreboard ticking with his occasional run-scoring shots. Team India captain, Ajyinkya Rahane came in with a positive frame of mind. He played of cameo of 24 off 22 balls before succumbing to a short pitch bouncer from Patt Cummins.
The departure of Ajyinkya Rahane at 167 diminished the chances of a possible Indian victory. But, the destiny had something else in store for team India. The swashbuckling wicketkeeper batsman Rishab Pant arrived at the crease. The lefty kept his cool and began to pile up agonies for Kangaroo team. But, Australian skipper helped to register their famous victory on Australian soil when he missed a stumping chance of Rishab Pant, off the bowling of Nathan Lyon. Tim Paine came under severe criticism for his clumsy glov-work throughout the series. Rishab Pant grabbed the opportunity with both hands, show grit and determination, punished bad balls and ran like a tiger between the wickets to earn singles and doubles. Chateswar Pujara fell prey to human error when Indian total had reached to 228. But, the third eye also couldn’t save him. He was probably destined to it. Then Mayank Agarwal joined in the middle. After playing a couple of mesmerising bowlers’ back dives, he succumbed to an ambitious cover drive which went straight into the hands of Nathan Lyon. Out came the first innings Indian hero. Yes, the left handed alrounder; Washington Sundar who is known for his right arm offspin stuff. He continued his first innings heroism. He scored 22 off 29 balls including a six and a couple of fours. His 53 run stand with Rishab Pant, paved the way for a massive Indian victory. Nathan Lyon got the better of Washington Sundar when team India score was 318. And Shardul Thakur miscued a hook shot off the bowling of Hazzelwood. But, Rishab Pant crunched the canon ball to long-off boundary when India needed just three runs for the victory. Rishab Pant was pumped up with the winning shot. Tim Paine must be cursing his hands because his clumsy and below-par glov-work cost Kangaroos the match and the series. Rishab Pant ended the verbal brawls with Tim Paine on a high note. He silenced his counterpart with his bat. The match will be remembered for many years. It will definitely help to restore the lost glory of test cricket.
(The writer is a teacher by profession. Views are his own)