Normally, it would take a set of dramatic turns for a rain-influenced Test to produce a result other than a draw, which would have been the height of Australia’s ambitions. Until Mahendra Singh Dhoni smashed Mitchell Starc for three successive boundaries in the 34th over, Australia might have clung onto this remote possibility. But inevitability prevailed as India nudged along to win the third Test by six wickets and clinch the series here on Monday. India took an unassailable 3-0 lead against Australia in the four-Test series.
Not before a streak of drama though before the series triumph was sealed, and the ghosts of Dominica 2011 and Mumbai a few months later lurked around. Those were winnable matches India settled for draw, the first through negative approach and second through safety mindset. Hence, there was deja vu between Virat Kohli’s dismissal and Dhoni’s late burst.
Until then, India were going along briskly, but Kohli mistimed to hole out to short midwicket and in came nerves. They were only 30 runs adrift of the target with nine more overs in the kitty. When Sachin Tendulkar succumbed to the mounting pressure, India still required 17 off 24 balls, with Starc and Peter Siddle bowling with their tails up. But Jadeja and Dhoni struck five boundaries in seven balls to script a memorable win, their first 3-0 win since beating Sri Lanka in 1993-94, and one that would partially shrug off the home-series surrender to England.
If at all Australia had salvaged a draw, (this isn’t an Aussie side of steely dreamers or gritty executioners and any thoughts of a challenging declarations wouldn’t be entertained), it hinged on the resurgent Phillip Hughes, who arrested his poor streak with a defiant 69, and skipper Michael Clarke, who braved a sore back. But once their resolute association of 30 runs (significantly they batted out 18 overs) — was breached their hopes too vanished.
Annoyingly for Clarke, Jadeja nailed him for the fifth time in six innings, though this was rather a soft bat-pad catch to short-leg that the left-armer deceived him with his cunning.
Nine balls later, Hughes, seemingly secure of spinners on a more benign surface than Chennai and Hyderabad, trooped off the ground to an umpiring decision that warranted disbelief. Ravichandran Ashwin’s ball, upon landing on middle and leg, clearly seemed to deviate beyond the leg-stump. Even the point of impact was leg-sidish and the ball not straightening enough to hit the leg-stump.
Soon after, they were tottering at 143 for eight, with Moises Henriques and Peter Siddle dismissed and more than an hour to negotiate for lunch. Then unreeled the familiar tale of Indian bowlers struggling to dismantle the lower order. In Chennai, the last three partnerships had added 73 in the first innings, 104 in the second innings while in the first innings here, they made 157 runs.
Here again, the last two pair contributed 80 runs, and significantly devoured nearly 35 overs to prolong India from their third win of the series.
Starc-Xavier Doherty partnership increasingly frustrated the hosts, and when Jadeja finally broke their resistance, after they had added 44 runs from 109 balls, India’s equation read 133 runs in one-and-a-half sessions.
Eventually, as the match concluded, it seemed by default that much of this Test has been about an uncontrollable, impalpable decree guiding it, like for example the opening day’s thunderstorms or Shikhar Dhawan’s stupefying debut or strange fluctuations of fortunes. Though there wasn’t any subsisting drama, it made for compelling viewing.