A flat pitch had the final say in the India Vs Australia Fourth Test Match at Ahmedabad. After demerit points given to the Indore pitch, the curators in Ahmedabad would not have taken many chances. However, going in with absolutely nothing for the bowlers turned out to be the other extreme. For those who were watching the Series with interest from February 9 till 13th March, such a flaccid end would have been a dampener. Even though we saw a Daddy Hundred from the Big Man Kohli himself, which arguably surpassed the toil of Usman Khwaja, the fans were looking forward to a result in the game. However, it was not to be.
The Final curtains came down on the Series with the two captains shaking hands on the field more than an hour before close of play, and the Indian team lifting the Border – Gavaskar Trophy Fourth Time in a row by a margin of 2 – 1. Thanks to the brilliance of Kane Williamson thousands of miles away, the Indians qualified for the WTC Final to be held in June in England before the Ahmedabad Test came to its conclusion.
Match Result – Draw
Series Result – India Won Border – Gavaskar Series 2 – 1
Player of the Match – Virat Kohli
Player of the Series – Ravinder Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin
Stat Update –
Last Four Border-Gavaskar Trophy Series –
1) 2016/17, In India: India won 2-1
2) 2018/19, In Australia: India won 2-1
3) 2020/21, In Australia: India won 2-1
4) 2022/23, In India: India won 2-1
This is the first instance of a side winning four consecutive BGT series.
Match Report –
There are few times in a Test match that the focus moves away from the players, toss or the pitch. However, that is precisely what happened in the India Vs Australia Fourth Test at Ahmedabad. The players were told to practice in the nets outside the main ground because the Prime Ministers of the two countries were in attendance. The security was beefed up and the focus was anything but cricket. Narender Modi was in the house with his Australian counterpart, and the crowd was pumped.
The Aussies won the toss and opted to bat on a good batting surface. The openers, Travis Head and Usman Khwaja started solidly. The fifty-plus partnership came up in quick time. India was put under pressure in the first hour and the Australians were set to dominate proceedings. Mohammed Shami started with a wayward first over and KS Bharat was having a torrid time behind the stumps. He dropped a dolly catch of Head off the bowling of Umesh Yadav. The Indians were looking rusty and all over the place in front of a huge Ahmedabad crowd.
Indians Get Amongst the Wickets
Ashwin was eventually brought into the attack and got the first breakthrough for India. Head was looking to take the attack to the spinners. He tried to loft Ashwin but got it on the bottom of the bat. It ended up spooning a catch to mid-on. Umesh Yadav was then brought back into the attack and struck almost immediately. Marnus Labuschagne got an inside edge. The ball kept a tad low, and the stumps were sent shattering.
Usman Khwaja Gets to His Century
The Indians bowled well in the Second Session after Lunch on Day 1. However, they did not get much help from the pitch. The overall run-rate was only 2.39 on a good batting pitch despite only two wickets lost in 46 overs. It took Usman Khwaja 146 balls, but he got to a half-century, his second of the series. Smith supported him well from the other end. Khwaja put faith in his abilities and patiently waited for the loose balls, which had been few and far between. The session went entirely to the Aussies with the Indians failing to pick up a single wicket.
Despite losing Smith and Handscomb early in the 3rd Session, Usman Khwaja batted through the day and made sure that Australia was on top at the end of Day 1. Camaron Green charged at the Indian bowlers when the new ball was taken. He took the pacers to the cleaners at the fag end of the day. Khwaja reached his century in style in the last over of the day.
The Second Day of the India Vs Australia Fourth Test also belonged to the Aussies, with Cameron Green and Usman Khwaja doing the bulk of the scoring. The pitch was offering no help to the Indian bowlers, and they were found wanting on a batting friendly wicket. Ashwin came good for India in the last session of the innings, taking 6 wickets in the first innings. However, it was not before the Aussie lower order got their team to an above-par total of 480 in the first innings.
India Start Well on Day 3
The Indian innings started well in the India Vs Australia Fourth Test with both Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill taking on the Aussie bowlers. Gill launched into Nathan Lyon early on and hit him for a humungous six! Even though Rohit fell early on Day 3, Shubman Gill ensured that the infamous Indian batting collapse does not happen again. Both Shubman Gill and Pujara put their head down and did the grind in the second session. Even though not a lot of runs were scored in this session, a total of 59 runs, Shubman Gill played beautifully and managed to reach his Test century. Pujara unfortunately lost his wicket to Todd Murphy almost at the stroke of Tea, bringing King Kohli to the crease.
The Indian Crowd – The Irony of It All
Pujara played 121 balls to reach 42. It was a hard-fought session with Smith keeping a lid on the runs. When Pujara was trapped in front of the wicket and the on-field umpire gave him out, there was a loud cheer in the huge Ahmedabad crowd. When he took the DRS and the machine showed All – Three – Reds on the big screen, chants of ‘King Kohli’ could be heard reverberating around the ground.
Such is the irony of the game, and such is the love for Virat Kohli that the public do not even regret a wicket falling. They have no consideration for India’s on-field soldier making his way out of the ground. All they want to see is the hero of their generation coming on to the field. The reaction reminds us of a time when the great Sachin Tendulkar carried the Indian hopes on his shoulders and the crowd came and left as per his time at the crease.
Aussies and Their Free Reviews
Alex Carey had been pretty smart all throughout the series in taking the bails off whenever a batsman is beaten off spin. Because if he can get the stumping reviewed, the catch gets reviewed automatically without using the player review. Steve Smith’s reactions during the discussion with Carey were bordering on childishly sweet. He really wanted to go for the DRS with Kohli on the receiving end, but he also wanted to trust Carey. Eventually, controlling the impulse was the correct way to go or Australians would have lost a review.
Lyon Gets Advantage of the Rough
After batting for almost three sessions, Shubman Gill was trapped LBW by Nathan Lyon. Gill had just taken treatment for some cramps, and perhaps that caused a lapse in concentration. He finished at 128 runs in 235 balls. It brings us to the enraging debate as to how Gill was left out from the first two Test matches and the severely out-of-form KL Rahul was backed to the hilt.
Shubman Gill here went on the backfoot on a full off-break and the DRS shows Three Reds. The situation was nicely poised for the spinners, especially Nathan Lyon, who can complete advantage of the rough created by the bowling of Mitchell Starc.
Jadeja has a Brain Fade Moment
A weird shot after a strange innings from Ravindra Jadeja in the first innings of the India Vs Australia Fourth Test. For about 80 balls, he seemed content with defending. However, his patience seemed to have given out. He pulled out three big shots in one over. One of them went for four, one fell just wide of mid-on, and the final one straight into mid-on’s hands. He was out for 28 off 84 in a massive brain fade moment. With news just coming in regarding Shreyas Iyer going for backpain – scans, this shot from Jadeja seems all the more reckless. Wonder who needs to be held responsible for sending him so high in the batting order?
Virat Kohli Gets a Big Century
Virat Kohli scored 27 Test Centuries in 141 innings, but it has taken 42 innings and more than three years for the 28th one to come. It is among his slowest hundreds, off 241 balls. His slowest was in Nagpur in 2012-13, off 289 balls.
The smile has never left his face, but this one is extra special. He got no boundaries at all on Day 4, but tucks around Lyon and gets to the landmark with a single. It has been an innings of grit and determination. He replied precisely to what was bowled at him on a pitch where it has been difficult to either score runs or actually get out. The celebrations of the Test century are sedated, and perhaps he feels that he needs to get a big one today. He removes the helmet, kisses his wedding ring, and accepts all the applause. It’s international century No. 75 for King Kohli.
Axar Patel Goes Hard at the Aussies
Arguably for the first time in the India Vs Australia Fourth Test, the batters were imposing their will on the proceedings. Axar Patel in particular. He unleashed his shots post the Tea break and have taken on the Aussies including three slog-swept sixes off Matt Kunhemann. He finally finished at 79 in 113 balls.
Diamond Duck for Umesh Yadav
Running out of partners, Virat Kohli told Umesh Yadav that he would play with soft hands into the leg side and take two. Umesh is ready accordingly. Kohli does exactly as promised, but it is timed too well, and Umesh is caught short by a direct hit at the non-striker’s end.
Kohli Sacrifices a Double Century
Virat Kohli was badly cramping, and he did not survive for too long after. That is to his credit. He didn’t want the match to be about his Double at the cost of the interest of the team. He tries a big slog-sweep, gets a top edge, caught at deep midwicket for 186. In one interview, it was revealed that Rohit Sharma wanted to declare while Kohli was batting. However, Rahul Dravid stopped him in order to wait for Kohli’s double century. An innings of great discipline and concentration by the King himself. India’s innings ends at 571 with Shreyas Iyer absent.
No Fairytale Ending for India
Matt Kuhnemann and Travis Head opened for Australia as the regular opener Usman Khwaja was undergoing treatment. Kuhnemann was incorrectly given out early next morning but did not review. The Aussies did not want to waste a review on the night watchman. The umpire, Nitin Menon, has had a dismal Test Series and his performance must seriously be looked into by the BCCI.
The Final Day of the Final Test turned out to be quite the opposite of how the entire series was going till the start of the Fourth Test. A classic Test match could be seen ensuing with the batters defending most of what they could. Wicketkeeper KS Bharat was in no mood to hold on to any catches. He dropped Smith when he was on a duck and perhaps that’s when a billion people, along with the players, knew that this match was heading nowhere but a Draw.
Travis Head made a quick 90 and Labuschagne finally got some runs under his belt in the India Vs Australia Fourth Test match. Pujara and Shubman Gill got to roll their arm at the Number 1 and Number 2 Ranked Test batters and bowl a couple of overs at the end. In another life, perhaps, Pujara would have been quite good at it too! The match finally ended with the Aussies declaring their innings and the captains calling it a day. The Indians won the Border – Gavaskar Series by 2 – 1.
Captains Speak –
Rohit Sharma: Was a fantastic series. Right from the word go, how exciting it was. Lot of the players are playing this for the first time. We do understand the importance of this series and the opposition. Lot of hard work has gone into this. At different times we have come up with answers. We knew how important it was to start the series well. The Delhi Test, I am very proud of. We were behind in the game.
At Indore, we were put under pressure and lost the game. Different players put their hands up. Lot of guys took up the responsibility and bailed us out. Test Cricket is hard fought cricket and isn’t easy. I am quite satisfied. I know what kind of benchmark I have set for myself. Keep the personal milestones aside. We have got the result from what I wanted from the series. To get the result makes us very happy.
Steve Smith: Did end slowly. Was a pretty flat at the back end. The boys had a great time. The hospitality has been amazing. The crowd has been amazing. We started to play better as the series went on. The madness in one hour in Delhi cost us that game. The wicket here was too flat for us to force a result. The spinners bowled really well. Murphy and Kuhnemann bowled with composure. Lyon bowled his best in the first innings here, the best I have seen him bowl. I am getting a bit old (on asked if he will be touring India in four years time).
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, Men of the Series:
Ravichandran Ashwin: It has been a great journey. We (himself and Jadeja) started a long time ago but we wouldn’t be the same or lethal enough without the other. We need to recognise that, at least I have started recognising that over the last 2-3 years. He gives me a lot of freedom to be creative with the ball, credit to him, I thought he bowled beautifully in the Delhi Test as well and that’s why we are here today. Jaddu keeps it really simple, he does not fret around or bother about what has happened, but I saw him sit in one place for an hour after he got out, so that told me how disappointed he was and that came out today.
The conversations have been a lot more in the last 2-3 years because I know how to communicate and what are his likes, his dislikes and even knowing what will help him. Even he has adapted beautifully to the chop and change, during the series when Head was going, Khawaja was playing, we had a lot of good conversations and some of them ended up with wickets and some of them are quite funny.
Ravindra Jadeja: It feels good bowling with him. He (Ashwin) is passing on information. What field to have, how to bowl to a particular batsman. I am not too happy with my batting in this series. Missed out on a few occasions especially in this Test. I will work harder and focus on my batting. Ashwin has a good cricketing brain. He knows every team in the world and every series that is being played.
Player of the Match
Virat Kohli: To be honest, the expectations I have from myself as a player is more to important to me. I felt I was batting well from the first innings at Nagpur. We focused on batting for long. I did that to an extent but not to the capability that I have done in the past. Was a little disappointed for that. Relief from the point of view that I could play the way I wanted to play.
I was happy with my defense. Am not in a space now where I will go out and prove someone wrong. I also need to justify why I am there on the field. When I was 60 not out, we decided to play positively. But we lost Shreyas to injury and were a batter short. So, we decided to play time. They were good with the ball and placed some good fields. We got a bit of a lead and gave ourselves some sort of a chance.
Indian Coach – Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid: It was a hard fought series. There were moments where we were put under extreme pressure and we managed to respond. Rohit led the way with the hundred in the first Test, capped off by the big one by Virat here. In the middle we had Jadeja, Axar, Shubman, probably missed a few. We needed to find people to respond and we found that. To be able to compete and get the better of them is a proud achievement. It’s been an exciting 4-5 months for Shubman. Exciting to see a young player coming in and maturing. Great sign for us, long may it continue. Lovely kid, works hard on his skill. Great exposure for him to learn from the likes of Virat, Rohit and even Steve Smith. We did have an eye on the New Zealand-Sri Lanka game. It was lunch time for us, so were following.
Appreciation for the Aussie Spinners
They (Aussie spinners) have been exceptional, led by Nathan Lyon. He has been brilliant for Australia for many years but right through the series he was exceptional, the kind of pressure and control he gave Cummins and Smith was outstanding. Both young spinners (Kuhnemann and Murphy) gave him that kind of support. Lot of times we have seen overseas teams have only one good spinner and the others leak runs, but credit to the two young spinners, they maintained that pressure and picked wickets. Lot of the guys were saying that for the quality of spin they had to play which made the series win all the more sweeter.
Some of the guys were saying since Panesar and Swann, they have probably not played over the last decade, couple of spinners of this kind of quality or this quality of spells, they have played individual spinners who have been great over the years but to have a quality spin attack I think it is the best in the last 10 years. We just qualified for it at lunch time today, we will think about it (WTC final) and plan for it, but first we will celebrate this victory.
Toss – Australia Won the Toss and Opted to Bat
India’s playing XI – Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat (wk), Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav
Australia’s Playing XI – Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith(c), Peter Handscomb, Cameron Green, Alex Carey(w), Mitchell Starc, Todd Murphy, Matthew Kuhnemann, Nathan Lyon
It would be tempting to place the Ahmedabad pitch as the main topic of discussion. However, the two Prime Ministers of India and Australia are making their way to the stadium tomorrow. If that is not something to play for, then nothing much is. A record crowd of One Lac is expected on Day 1 at the India Vs Australia Fourth Test at Ahmedabad. Over and above, India do not want to leave their qualification for the WTC Final in New Zealand’s hands. They also have a proud record of having won 15 consecutive home series to protect.
When: India vs Australia Fourth Test, March 9-13, 9:30 AM IST
Where: Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad
What to expect: The best batting conditions of the series, at least to start off. Smith, however, predicted that spin would come into play. A return to more normal subcontinental conditions will see the toss assume greater significance than it has been in this series so far where teams losing the toss have gone on to win each time. Meanwhile, the players will be treated to hot summer conditions in Ahmedabad. The mid-afternoon temperatures forecast to hit 37 degrees Celsius during the Test match.
Rahul Dravid hinted that India will be happy to stick to their 3-2 combination of bowlers. If at all, the hosts might consider bringing back Mohammed Shami and rest Mohammed Siraj. Ishan Kishan is there in this squad as a keeper-bat in place of Rishabh Pant. He has had significant time batting in the nets. But Rohit and Dravid are insisting that they are happy with how Bharat has gone about his two roles in the series and are willing to give him the space to succeed.
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat (wk), Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami/Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav
After the troubles in the early part of the tour, the visitors have a clean bill of health to report and thus have no reason to change their winning combination from Indore. There might be more of a bowling load for the seamers in the first innings of the Test and thus Cameron Green is likely to bowl more than the two overs he did in Indore.
Probable XI: Usman Khawaja, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith (c), Peter Handscomb, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Todd Murphy, Matthew Kuhnemann
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