At Mohali, March 14-18, 2013. India won by six wickets. Toss: Australia. Test debut: S. Dhawan.
India regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after Australia were impaired by their own hands, then impaled by Shikhar Dhawan, who scored the fastest recorded Test century on debut. After the hefty loss in Hyderabad, Australia's coach Mickey Arthur had asked every player to assess where they and the team could improve. Four of them - vice-captain Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja - failed to respond and, in an unprecedented move, were suspended for this Test.
That contributed to a number of changes, which - depending on your perspective - either underlined the resolve of the management's decision, or reflected the increasingly chaotic nature of Australia's tour. Steve Smith, Starc and Lyon (suddenly deemed worthy of inclusion once more after being dropped at Hyderabad) came in for Watson, Pattinson and Glenn Maxwell (ditched after only one game); Haddin, meanwhile, was flown in to replace Matthew Wade, who had sprained his ankle playing basketball on a day off. India also made changes, replacing the out-of-form Virender Sehwag, a veteran of 104 Tests, with Dhawan, and bringing back Ojha for Harbhajan Singh, whose five wickets in the series had cost over 40 each.
The first day was lost to persistent rain and, when the toss eventually took place on the second morning, Clarke again called correctly. Cowan and Warner gave Australia their strongest start in any Test in India with a stand of 139 but, not for the first time, wickets fell in clusters. When Warner, on 71, edged Jadeja into his pad and the catch bobbed up to Dhoni, it was the first of three for 12 runs. Clarke's move up to No. 3 failed: advancing to Jadeja, he was beautifully beaten by flight and turn, and stumped for a golden duck.
Hughes, meanwhile, made an agonising two in 39 minutes. Cowan knew his role was crease occupation, and survived almost five hours for 86 before he was caught at slip off Ashwin. Smith's skill against spin had earned him a place on this tour, and his footwork was impeccable - until he was dragged fractionally out of his crease by Ojha. He would not be the only man out in the nineties. Starc, down at No. 9, offered Smith staunch support, then became the senior partner alongside Lyon. He was helped by some oddly defensive fields from Dhoni, who at times pushed six men back to the boundary to gift him singles in an attempt to get at Lyon. But Lyon was untroubled, and their stand ended only when Starc reached 99 and Dhoni brought the field in. To his dismay, Starc edged a drive off Sharma.
Australia's 408 seemed competitive enough - until Dhawan and Vijay embarked on India's reply. If the Australians thought Dhoni's double-century at Chennai had been hard to shackle, they must have felt utterly helpless against Dhawan. At least Dhoni had given them hope by hitting a few in the air; Dhawan achieved the preposterous feat of scoring an 85-ball hundred without once going over the top. Equally remarkable was his capacity to pinpoint small gaps, and he was phenomenally strong on the cover-drive, square-drive and cut: two-thirds of his runs came through the off side. He was just as classy against the spinners, whether advancing, sweeping, reverse-sweeping, or on the drive. It was a ruthless, risk-free innings - and it completely overshadowed the diligence of Vijay.
Between lunch and tea on day three, India amassed 153, of which Dhawan made 106; by stumps, they were 283 for nought, and he was well past Gundappa Viswanath's national record for the highest score on Test debut (137 against Australia at Kanpur in 1969-70). Dhawan added only two on the fourth morning before the stand ended at 289 - India's third-highest for the first wicket - but Vijay continued to frustrate the Australians. He scored his second consecutive century, and was undone only when the second new ball was belatedly taken after 101 overs, and Starc hooped the first delivery to trap him for 153. Dhoni fell in similar fashion three balls later and, after a 61-run eighth-wicket stand between Kohli and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the last three fell for seven. In an innings in which the other five Australian bowlers managed five for 410, Siddle's five for 71 was not far short of heroic.
Australia began the second innings 91 behind, but Hughes - who would probably have been axed for this Test had Khawaja done his homework - was the only batsman who threatened. Kumar accounted for the rest of the top order cheaply, and Clarke, who had been on and off the field during India's innings for treatment on his back, dropped down to No. 6; he was clearly hampered in making 18. Hughes showed a new-found intent against the spinners, and was unluckily given out lbw on 69 to a ball from Ashwin that was drifting down leg.
The last two wickets added 80, but Australia were all out for 223, leaving India 133 to win in a little over a session. Top-order wickets tied them down, and Clarke could have decelerated proceedings, but instead rattled through 21 overs before the final hour, giving India an extra nine for their chase. His logic was that only an Australian victory could keep the series alive; a draw would be of no consolation. The Australians duly collected four wickets and, with Dhawan unable to bat after injuring his hand in the field, India were in effect five down. But despite some late tension - they needed 17 off four overs as stumps approached - Dhoni sealed things with 15 balls to spare by hitting three consecutive fours off Starc. All that remained for a one-sided series were the last rites.
Man of the Match: S. Dhawan. Close of play: first day, no play; second day, Australia 273-7 (Smith 58, Starc 20); third day, India 283-0 (Vijay 83, Dhawan 185); fourth day, Australia 75-3 (Hughes 53, Lyon 4).