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Border-Gavaskar trophy: Magnificent Rishabh Pant powers team to series win after Gill-Pujara show

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An Indian cricket team saddled with broken bones and battered bodies showed a never-seen-before zeal to retain the coveted Border-Gavaskar trophy with a historic three-wicket win over Australia in the fourth and final Test here, successfully chasing a 328-run target to seal the four-match series 2-1.

A minefield of talent called Rishabh Pant (89 not out off 138 balls) channelled his inner ‘Mad Max’ to scare the daylights out of the Australians with his breathtaking strokeplay, ending the home team’s 32-year-old unbeaten run at the ‘Fortress Gabba’.

The result has the potential to end Tim Paine’s reign as Australia captain having lost back-to-back home series against India.

The highlights package of Pant’s battle with Nathan Lyon can be enjoyed repeatedly in times to come as he demolished the 100-Test man in company of debutant Washington Sundar (22), who hooked the world’s best fast bowler, Pat Cummins, for a six.

No one moved from their seats as Pant cut, drove, and paddle-swept to make a statement to his detractors while gifting India one of their finest overseas wins during the dying moments of the final session with an off-driven boundary.

While Shubman Gill (91 off 146 balls) announced his arrival on the global stage, Cheteshwar Pujara (56 off 211 balls) surpassed all the pain barriers en route his slowest Test fifty that held the game in balance for Pant to launch a final assault.

The Australian team wouldn’t feel too good about not being able to win a Test match with an opposition that was finding it difficult to field a fit first XI a day prior to the Test match.

The series will be remembered for ages and the impact that Ajinkya Rahane’s team had on the cricketing fraternity and the fans in general will be written in golden words when a fresh history of Test cricket after 2000 is written.

In terms of relevance, a series win without Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah not being available at various points, is zillion times more significant than the 2-1 win in 2018-19 when the opposition didn’t have Steve Smith and David Warner in its ranks.

First time, people celebrated draws, became empathetic to players with limited abilities and believed in their team.

The stands were near-about empty at the Gabba thanks to the COVID-19 crowd restrictions but make no mistake that Test cricket seemed well and truly alive and kicking.

With its beautiful ebbs and flows, the fifth day was witness to three separate schools of batsmanship, so very dissimilar to each other.

Gill, who is now going to be the “Real Deal”, was free-flowing in his stroke-making with his “beside the line of the ball” technique as he rode the bounce to hammer home the advantage and briefly make India favourites to win the battle.

The two sixes off Mitchell Starc — a slash over backward point and a thump over deep mid-wicket — will be the ones for the keeps.

The disdain while thrashing the Australian bowlers would have made even Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli proud.

India have now got Kohli’s heir apparent and the 21-year-old is here to stay for the longest time.

Pujara, on the other hand, saw the Australian try out the menacing short ball tactic. He took a few on the helmet, a few more on the chest and other parts and a painful one on the knuckles but remained unfazed.

Gill and Pujara showed that there are multiple ways to skin a cat.

If Pujara was ready to duck, sway and cop body blows off Josh Hazlewood and Cummins, showing the art of survival, Gill, on his first tour of Australia, was ready to be the intimidator by bringing the pull shot out of his repertoire.

The duo, during its 114-run stand, showed that very contrasting styles can co-exist without conflict even as fans of both genres argue who has the more appropriate approach for the format.

Even Pant with his cavalier ways would have added his two cents to the debate on various styles.

But for the uninitiated, the three distinct schools can be suitably de-constructed — Pujara’s was more of investing in an LIC policy with safe returns while Gill’s approach, with his collars-up, was akin to mutual funds and Pant would most likely play his game in high-stakes stock market where winner takes it all but at times at a heavy price.

While the final day performance is sure to hold a special place but the story of this match won’t be complete without a more than honourable mention of what Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar did on the third morning and afternoon.

Had that partnership not been there, it wouldn’t have been as easy for India as it seemed in the end.

Thakur and Washington gave hope of a fight, Pujara, Gill and Pant, with their performances, honoured that fight.

Coach Ravi Shastri was once panned for his “best travelling Indian team” comment but after January 19, very few would disagree that this is the “toughest Indian team on road”.

Scoreboard at close of play on the fifth day of 4th test between Australia and India on Monday at Brisbane, Australia

India win by 3 wickets

Australia 1st innings

David Warner c Rohit Sharma b Mohammed Siraj 1

Marcus Harris c Washington Sundar b Shardul Thakur 5

Marnus Labuschagne c Rishabh Pant b T Natarajan 108

Steven Smith c Rohit Sharma b Washington Sundar 36

Matthew Wade c Shardul Thakur b T Natarajan 45

Cameron Green b Washington Sundar 47

Tim Paine c Rohit Sharma b Shardul Thakur 50

Pat Cummins lbw Shardul Thakur 2

Mitchell Starc Not Out 20

Nathan Lyon b Washington Sundar 24

Josh Hazlewood b T Natarajan 11

Extras 4b 5lb 6nb 0pen 5w 20

Total (115.2 overs) 369 all out Fall of Wickets : 1-4 Warner, 2-17 Harris, 3-87 Smith, 4-200 Wade, 5-213 Labuschagne, 6-311 Paine, 7-313 Green, 8-315 Cummins, 9-354 Lyon, 10-369 Hazlewood

Bowling Ov Md Rn Wk Econ Ex

Mohammed Siraj 28 10 77 1 2.75 1w

T Natarajan 24.2 3 78 3 3.21 6nb

Shardul Thakur 24 6 94 3 3.92

Navdeep Saini 7.5 2 21 0 2.68

Washington Sundar 31 6 89 3 2.87

Rohit Sharma 0.1 0 1 0 6.00

……………………………………………………….

India 1st innings

Rohit Sharma c Mitchell Starc b Nathan Lyon 44

Shubman Gill c Steven Smith b Pat Cummins 7

Cheteshwar Pujara c Tim Paine b Josh Hazlewood 25

Ajinkya Rahane c Matthew Wade b Mitchell Starc 37

Mayank Agarwal c Steven Smith b Josh Hazlewood 38

Rishabh Pant c Cameron Green b Josh Hazlewood 23

Washington Sundar c Cameron Green b Mitchell Starc 62

Shardul Thakur b Pat Cummins 67

Navdeep Saini c Steven Smith b Josh Hazlewood 5

Mohammed Siraj b Josh Hazlewood 13

T Natarajan Not Out 1

Extras 5b 7lb 2nb 0pen 0w 14

Total (111.4 overs) 336 all out Fall of Wickets : 1-11 Gill, 2-60 Sharma, 3-105 Pujara, 4-144 Rahane, 5-161 Agarwal, 6-186 Pant, 7-309 Thakur, 8-320 Saini, 9-328 Sundar, 10-336 Siraj

Bowling Ov Md Rn Wk Econ Ex

Mitchell Starc 23 3 88 2 3.83

Josh Hazlewood 24.4 6 57 5 2.31 2nb

Pat Cummins 27 5 94 2 3.48

Cameron Green 8 1 20 0 2.50

Nathan Lyon 28 9 65 1 2.32

Marnus Labuschagne 1 1 0 0 0.00

…………………………………………………………

Australia 2nd innings

Marcus Harris c Rishabh Pant b Shardul Thakur 38

David Warner lbw Washington Sundar 48

Marnus Labuschagne c Rohit Sharma b Mohammed Siraj 25

Steven Smith c Ajinkya Rahane b Mohammed Siraj 55

Matthew Wade c Rishabh Pant b Mohammed Siraj 0

Cameron Green c Rohit Sharma b Shardul Thakur 37

Tim Paine c Rishabh Pant b Shardul Thakur 27

Pat Cummins Not Out 28

Mitchell Starc c Navdeep Saini b Mohammed Siraj 1

Nathan Lyon c Mayank Agarwal b Shardul Thakur 13

Josh Hazlewood c Shardul Thakur b Mohammed Siraj 9

Extras 5b 2lb 4nb 0pen 2w 13

Total (75.5 overs) 294 all out Fall of Wickets : 1-89 Harris, 2-91 Warner, 3-123 Labuschagne, 4-123 Wade, 5-196 Smith, 6-227 Green, 7-242 Paine, 8-247 Starc, 9-274 Lyon, 10-294 Hazlewood

Bowling Ov Md Rn Wk Econ Ex

Mohammed Siraj 19.5 5 73 5 3.68 1w

T Natarajan 14 4 41 0 2.93 2nb

Washington Sundar 18 1 80 1 4.44

Shardul Thakur 19 2 61 4 3.21 1w 1nb

Navdeep Saini 5 1 32 0 6.40 1nb

………………………………………………..

India 2nd innings

Rohit Sharma c Tim Paine b Pat Cummins 7

Shubman Gill c Steven Smith b Nathan Lyon 91

Cheteshwar Pujara lbw Pat Cummins 56

Ajinkya Rahane c Tim Paine b Pat Cummins 24

Rishabh Pant Not Out 89

Mayank Agarwal c Matthew Wade b Pat Cummins 9

Washington Sundar b Nathan Lyon 22

Shardul Thakur c Nathan Lyon b Josh Hazlewood 2

Extras 18b 8lb 3nb 0pen 0w 29

Total (97.0 overs) 329-7 Fall of Wickets : 1-18 Sharma, 2-132 Gill, 3-167 Rahane, 4-228 Pujara, 5-265 Agarwal, 6-318 Sundar, 7-325 Thakur Did Not Bat : Saini, Siraj, Natarajan

Bowling Ov Md Rn Wk Econ Ex

Mitchell Starc 16 0 75 0 4.69 1nb

Josh Hazlewood 22 5 74 1 3.36 1nb

Pat Cummins 24 10 55 4 2.29 1nb

Cameron Green 3 1 10 0 3.33

Nathan Lyon 31 7 85 2 2.74

Marnus Labuschagne 1 0 4 0 4.00

………………………..

Umpire Bruce Oxenford

Umpire Paul Wilson

Video Paul Reiffel

Match Referee David Boon

(Inputs from Reuters)

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