India beat Australia by 6 wickets in the second Test in Delhi, enabling them to go two up in the series.
However, the bare facts do not tell the full story of this match. Australia had the better of things in the early part of the game, and seemed well set in their second innings at the start of the third day.
But an inspired piece of bowling by Ravindra Jadeja combined with a batting collapse undid nearly all the good work that had gone before.
India somewhat stumbled over the line in the end, but they had done more than enough.
They have all but booked their place in the WTC (World Test Championship) final at the Oval in June, where their likely opponents will be Australia again.
For India Shreyas Iyer was pronounced fit, and he took the place of Suryakumar Yadav from the side that played the first Test in Nagpur. Australia replaced Matthew Renshaw with Travis Head, and, opting to play a third spinner, with Matthew Kuhnemann handed his debut, left out seamer Scott Boland.
Australia won the toss and opted to bat first, and got off to a reasonable start, although the under-fire David Warner failed again, making just 15. However, his opening partner Usman Khawaja found support from Peter Handscomb, and they put on 59 for the fifth wicket until Khawaja was caught off the bowling of Jadeja.
Handscomb, who would finish unbeaten on 72, managed to add 95 with the tail before his side were all out for 263.
The spin duo of Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin took three wickets apiece, whilst pace bowler Mohammed Shami claimed 4 – 60.
India had managed to cope with the threat posed by Australia’s own spin king, Nathan Lyon, well in the first match, but he had much more success here, and too five wickets as India slumped to 139/7.
At that point the tourist were eyeing a substantial first innings lead, but their hopes were dashed as Axar Patel and Ashwin shared a stand of 114 for the eighth wicket.
Patel was out top scoring for his side with 74, whilst Ashwin’s 37 helped ensure that the deficit was just one run in the end when India were dismissed for 262.
Lyon finished with 5 – 67, whilst the two other spinners, Kuhnemann and Todd Murphy claimed two victims each (and Kuhnemann can take some satisfaction that his first victim in Test cricket was Virat Kohli).
Australia’s second innings began without Warner, who had been replaced by Renshaw under the concussion protocols after being struck by a delivery.
Although they lost Khawaja early, they seemed well set at the close of play on the second day, 61/1 in their second innings, with Head and Marnus Labuschagne at the crease.
However, their innings was to last less than 20 overs more on the third morning. They made a poor start to the day, losing Head in the first over, caught behind off Ashwin. Labuschagne and Steve Smith added 20 for the third wicket, before Smith was leg before to Ashwin for 9.
The visitors then lost four wickets in the space of nine balls without adding a run, with the dismissal of Labuschagne for 37 the signal for the floodgates to open.
Australia managed to eke out the innings for eight more overs but were all out for 113.
Jadeja finished with 7-42, his best ever bowling figures in Test cricket, whilst Ashwin took 3 – 59.
That left India needing 115 for victory.
It was not all plain sailing, losing KL Rahul for just a single. But captain Rohit Sharma made 31 before he was run out, and Cheteshwar Pujara was unflappable as ever, making an unbeaten 31, and finding a willing partner at the end in the shape of KS Bharat to help carry their team over the line.
Player of the match
Jadeja was the deserved winner of the award, although Ashwin must also take a great deal of credit, with six wickets in all and an innings that, in the context of the match, proved invaluable.
What this means
It means that, in the context of the WTC standings, not only have India consolidated their position of second in the standings, but they have also now closed the gap on Australia at the top. The Australians have 66.67 percentage points as opposed to 64.06 for India.
No other nation is in serious contention for a final place now.
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