India v Australia, 3rd Test, Mohali, 5th day

India exert a rare dominance

By taking a 3-0 lead against Australia in Mohali, India have produced a sequence of sustained dominance that is rare in their Test history

Sharda Ugra

March 18, 2013

Comments: 55 | Text size: A | A

MS Dhoni completes a bat-pad catch off David Warner, India v Australia, 3rd Test, Mohali, 2nd day, March 15, 2013
This Border-Gavaskar Trophy has turned out to be as unequal a contest as it was in Australia in 2011-12 © BCCI
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In their 81-year-old Test history, India had won three consecutive Tests in a series only twice before. The first time was against Graham Gooch's England in 1992-93 and the second against Arjuna Ranatunga's Sri Lanka in 1993-94.

Apart from those contests, India had never won three Tests in a home series of any length. Not even during their 17 wins in 30 home Tests during the rampaging 1990s. India's only other clutch of three Test victories came, along with a chuckle from the gods, overseas. In 1968-69, India achieved their first away series win with a 3-1 result New Zealand.

In Mohali, India's unassailable 3-0 lead against Australia was a fist pump at history. Such a score line had been achieved after a two-decade gap and beating Australia by six wickets had returned the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to India.

India's pursuit of the target of 133 had a bit of a late flutter following Virat Kohli's departure with 30 left to get. It took two boundaries from Ravindra Jadeja in the 33rd over to ease India and Dhoni's growing anxiety. Butterflies had begun fluttering during a passage of about six overs after Kohli was out, when all four results became an imagined - even if remote - possibility.

This Border-Gavaskar Trophy has turned out to be as unequal a contest as it was in Australia in 2011-12. India had battled in the first Test in Melbourne, and Australia's mongrel barked and bit as they tried to defend 133 in Mohali. A 3-0 result, however, is the differentiator in quality between the teams in conditions that have asked mind-altering questions of these new-age Australians. And India have discovered with much satisfaction that this Australia are nowhere close to their old-age compatriots.

The India in Mohali are new-age themselves, but have so far swept away all doubts of their superiority at home over teams of a particular standard. Australia are ranked No. 3 in the ICC Test rankings, one spot ahead of India. Considering how they have played in this series, a round of polite coughing wouldn't be uncalled for. Even between their two embarrassing 0-4 defeats in England and Australia, India beat New Zealand, West Indies and now Australia.

Following this performance, there's a good chance the 1-2 defeat against England will be swept away in the wash of euphoria because India's formula at home has been nailed. The Duncan Fletcher move of including Ravindra Jadeja in the XI and having Dhoni bat at No. 6 has given the captain an additional option with the ball, even if a wee bit more sweat with the bat.

This has enabled India to come back in every game that they bowled first, even after conceding 400-plus in the first innings. The efficiency of India's turnaround against Australia has been impressive. That it came from the newbies - Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravindra Jadeja, and the born-again M Vijay - gives the selectors the opportunity to walk around whistling.

In the chase on the fifth day, India were trotting at more than 3.50 runs an over before Kohli was dismissed. That was when Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc began to put the squeeze on new man Dhoni. Eventually Jadeja's free-style hitting set his side free, the match eventually won with 15 balls to spare.

That margin is a bit supermodel-sized: looks good at a distance, but up close it can appear a little scrawny. It was a result of both the pressure exerted by the Australians after the Kohli dismissal, as well as India's generosity with time and runs, allowing the last three Australian wickets to put up 97.

Somewhere along their press against the Australian batsmen, one of India's successful bowling formulas, particularly at home, turned into a commandment. Thou shalt give only the new ball to Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

It was Bhuvneshwar who had broken through the top of the Australian batting but following his eight-over burst on Sunday evening, the next time he bowled was after 66 overs, when Australia had scored 129 more runs. The ninth and tenth wicket had put on 55 and Bhuvneshwar appeared, because of course the second new ball had to be taken.

India's spinners had done well to reduce Australia to 143 for 8, a lead of 52, yet somehow even with five bowlers, kept their options down to only four for a better chunk of the day. Yes, it is hard to spread the overs around five bowlers but to not give the fifth a go?

Dhoni's careful explanation for not bringing Bhuvneshwar on had to do with his lack of pace and the need to keep him fresh. "Well Bhuvneshwar is not someone who is too quick but can move the ball, so it's important that we use him with he new ball more, when the ball is skidding on a bit there's slightly less time for batsman to adjust," Dhoni said. "And if that's not the case I try to keep him fresh. Mostly we bowl 125 overs and which means second new ball is also due.

"As I said, first day there was not much pace for the fast bowlers and there was not much movement also. Generally Bhuvneshwar is someone who swings it, doesn't matter what the condition is he gets the swing, but that was not the case." Dhoni emphasised that Bhuvneshwar be used, "more with the new ball, especially in the subcontinental conditions."

It is a handsome theory but on the field, as India struggled to get a lower-order wicket with their spinners, it was as if a limited-overs formula - X for the new ball, Y for the middle overs to contain and Z for the slog overs, and if it doesn't break, no need to fix it - had been put into place in Test cricket. Yet, against a wavering opposition in the comfort of home, India will always have plenty of leeway. And if the result ends up 3-0 anyway, everything else becomes nit picking.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Samdanh on (March 20, 2013, 6:12 GMT)

Aus lacked the batting quality and tenacity and bowling quality of the England team. That is the difference. While Australia should learn from how Indian batsmen batted and how Indian bowlers bowled in this series so far, Aus captain and board have subtly taught lessons to India team and board, on how to deal with defeat gracefully and correctly, despite being at the receving end of 3 horrendous umpiring decisions (which DRS would have helped avoid) in the second innings of the just concluded 3rd Test. Aus could have drawn the Test had the umpires been right at least in two of those decisions. Despite all this, none from Aus team or board referred to those 3 poor decisions. That is the difference.

Posted by zarasochozarasamjho on (March 19, 2013, 18:54 GMT)

As a Pakistan supporter, I was very impressed with the quality of bowling of Bhavneshwar Kumar when he played against Pakistan in limited overs matches a few months ago; and was very successful. While Pakistan batting has been very brittle, one could still see that the quality of pace bowling was of a very high standard. Kumar wasn't fast but he moved the ball consistently and made the batsmen play nearly each time.

India needs to get rid of old and non-performing players. The new pace and spin bowlers and 3 new batsmen seem to be of a high (test-standard) quality, who now must perform consistently in places like South Africa, Australia, and West Indies.

Posted by indianpunter on (March 19, 2013, 14:37 GMT)

Not surprised that no one is talking about the "elephant in the room" amidst all this euphoria. SRT is finished. He no longer has the will or the mental strength to concentrate for long periods. Consider this; 1. He is the only 1 in the top 6 who hasnt scored a hundred this series. 2. Only 1 international hundred in the past 2 yrs, and that too against Bangladesh. 3. He is probably still good for the occassional 50, but is that what we need from him. I hope the selectors give him a nudge, otherwise, he will make a fool of himself in SA. Please go, ten!.

Posted by   on (March 19, 2013, 13:49 GMT)

Yes it was also funny not to see Dhoni put full pressure when he invited Tendulkar to bowl, pretty late though, by keeping more close in fielders and an edge of the second ball went past silly mid-on, which was a bit too straight and a bit too far.Most of the catches in this position are taken just in front of the batsman, like that of Shikhar by Cowan,who was a bit squarer too.Anyway the new fielders need to be trained in the art of close in fileding, like Mathew Hayden was seen coaching Kohli. We at least dropped 5-6 catches in the second innings.

Posted by   on (March 19, 2013, 12:36 GMT)

India may have won 3-0, but it is better to nitpick now rather than doing it when we are 1-2 or 0-3. The australian team was no match and its a young team with no experience in sub-continents. So just hyping this 3-0 is doing no favours.

Posted by SasiGladi on (March 19, 2013, 10:21 GMT)

Many were asking whether Dawan/Vijay opening pair will click in SA even I am not sure about that they may need to work hard and adapt to condition in SA...one thing is sure Bhuvi is perfect fit for SA series he might be good in effect may not be equal to Philander but yes to certain extent....

Posted by   on (March 19, 2013, 9:36 GMT)

More than a few areas for concern for India, which cannot be simply papered over. If we have to effective is SA, a larger pool of pacers will need to be considered. Sreesanth and Mithun should be considered if fit. Personally, I think England did us a favour by beating us 2-1 in our own backyard. There was a considerable zeal in the way the Indians guarded against complacency and kept applying pressure against Australia, coz they were always wary of a fightback. Ashwin's return to form was heartening and augurs well for even overseas tests. With Dhoni at 6 and Jadeja at 7, there will be a flew flutters if the middle order wobbles. We also need to broaden the pool of batsmen available for the middle order...just in case !

Posted by srikanth.v on (March 19, 2013, 8:49 GMT)

I feel Sharda Ugra has been somewhat inflating Ravindra Jadeja's stature in her recent articles. No harm in acknowledging good performances, but Jaddu is noway an all rounder yet. He is yet to prove his batting in tests. His bowling cannot be trusted overseas. Given that, he is a home-test bowler who can at best bat as good as Harbhajan. Being Dhoni's pet is helping him. If he fails overseas, who will be number 6/7 ? Sorry! India's Middle order is not settled yet.

Posted by   on (March 19, 2013, 6:34 GMT)

India is rebuilding, and as a result has seen ups and down, one of the prime factors for the 8-0 and 2-1 debacle was the ever poor performance of stars like Laxman, Dravid(in Australia), Sachin, Viru, Gauti, Zaheer, Bhaji etc... and that is understandable considering that many of these players are/were on their last leg. Dhoni has done the right thing by getting youngsters in the team and they seem to be showing some promise... be it Pujara, Kohli, Jadeja, Ashwin, Umesh, Shikar or Vijay, all youngster look hungry.. can we win in SA with this team, maybe not, but we could give some fight and target winning in NZ first, India would be an ordinary team outside the sub continent for some time but it will improve.. fans must relish victories in the meantime ...

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