At Melbourne, December 26-30, 2014. Drawn. Toss: Australia. Test debuts: J. A. Burns; K. L. Rahul.
Australia regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after Smith set India a conservative 384 in two sessions on a blameless pitch. He might have wished for more time when India promptly slumped to 19 for three, but rested content with the first draw at Melbourne for 17 years, agreeing with Dhoni to call it quits four overs from the end.
That was somewhat surprising given the frailty of India's tail, though by far the greater surprise was to follow: minutes after Dhoni had hosted a final press conference, in which he spoke of the customary generalities, his retirement from Test cricket was announced by a BCCI press release. Dhoni had become the fifth man to pass 10,000 international runs as captain, and made an Indian-record nine dismissals during the game. But the contrast with the glorious pageant that had attended Sachin Tendulkar's farewell, around which an entire Test series was built a little over a year earlier, could hardly have been more acute.
The toss had afforded Australia the opportunity to set the pace in the game. And, following Warner's second-over duck, Rogers and Watson got them established with a steady second-wicket partnership of 115. Smith again seemed impossible to bowl to, even economically, and became the first Australian to score centuries in his first two Tests as captain. His Test-best 192 lasted more than seven hours, and contained two sixes, 17 fours (two all-run), eight threes, eight twos and 72 singles - a state of more or less constant activity. It was also an innings of distinct tempos: he went stroke for stroke with Haddin in accumulating 110, played a cheery second fiddle to Harris in adding 106 in 24 overs, and resumed swinging to put on 48 in 38 balls with Lyon. He was finally bowled trying to ramp Yadav, probably his first needless shot.
Having given away at least 486 for the eighth time in 2014, India began their reply under a pressure they did not show. Coming together at 147 for three, after Vijay had fallen an hour into the third day, Kohli and Rahane played their shots with authority, if not abandon. Kohli was superb, taking 11 of his 18 fours off an increasingly disgruntled Johnson, who showed his frustration by hurling the ball at the striker's stumps and hitting a doubled-up Kohli instead; that precipitated an animated, angry exchange.
But Rahane, in his third Test hundred, played perhaps even better - constantly enterprising, always decisive, utterly indifferent to the war of words around him, actually outscoring his glamorous partner: to their partnership of 262, built at four and a half an over, Rahane contributed 147, Kohli 114. Both survived catchable chances: Watson at slip was surprised by Haddin's reluctance to dive when Kohli had 88, and everyone was startled when Lyon spilled the simplest of return catches when Rahane had 70.
Rahane's eventual fall to Lyon was the first of seven wickets in 21 overs, as India conceded an advantage of 65, and Australia took their turn to move the match along. Midway through the fourth afternoon, they were only two wickets down and had a lead approaching 200, conjuring thoughts of an early declaration. But in the last, 32-over session of the day, Australia could add only 87 for three: it was India's best and most consistent bowling of the tour.
Rain loitered next morning, twice banishing the players, and the Australians batted with no obvious haste, implying little interest in setting an inviting target. Remembering Adelaide, Smith was reluctant to court defeat; the Test at Sydney, he felt, would already be emotionally charged, without the added demand of deciding custody of the trophy. There was also the matter of a hundred for Shaun Marsh, who chased the landmark until it was close enough to touch, whereupon he pushed to Kohli at mid-off and ran, falling a foot or so short. He was the third Australian batsman to be run out for 99 in a home Test, after Bill Brown in 1947-48 and Arthur Morris in 1952-53.
An hour later, as India's top order stumbled, the game was alive again, Kohli and Rahane back in harness as Australia pressed for victory. They added 85, but more importantly used up 26 overs. Kohli was caught at short midwicket straight after tea, but Pujara kept Rahane company for over an hour, and Australia tired. For his magnificent six for 100 from 42 overs, plus his hearty runs, Harris was named Man of the Match.
Man of the Match: R. J. Harris.