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4th Test, Ahmedabad, March 09 - 13, 2023, Australia tour of India
480 & 175/2d

Match drawn


India take series 2-1 after tedious draw on lifeless Ahmedabad pitch

The same two teams will face off again in the WTC final at The Oval in London in early June

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Australia 480 and 175 for 2 dec (Head 90, Labuschagne 63*) drew with India 571 (Kohli 186, Gill 128, Axar 79, Murphy 3-113, Lyon 3-151)
The comatose pitch at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad had the final say as Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne batted Australia to a comfortable draw in front of the humongous but empty stands. Thus, a fourth-successive Border-Gavaskar Trophy series ended in an identical result: 2-1 to India.
India needed to win three Tests in the series to secure their participation in the World Test Championship final against other results elsewhere, but they received good news just as the second session was beginning: New Zealand had won a thriller in Christchurch to deny Sri Lanka, the only side that could challenge India's progress to final. The India huddle was seen shaking hands just as it was confirmed that Kane Williamson had completed the bye that won them the Test off the final ball.
Trailing India by 88 at the start of the day, Australia needed to bat a little over two sessions to practically ensure the draw. Although the ball did a little more than it had earlier, they lost just the two wickets in the day. One of those would not even have been out had it been a proper batter and not the nightwatcher Matthew Kuhnemann, who didn't review the lbw call off R Ashwin with the ball missing leg.
It was a day of some triumph for Head and Labuschagne. Labuschagne began the series as a key batter if Australia were to succeed, didn't score a fifty in the first three even though he kept making desperate changes to his game to succeed. Head came with a question mark on his game against spin - even within his team, which didn't play him in the first Test.
Head found the opening spot thanks to the injury to David Warner and eased their potentially tricky chase in Indore. Both Head and Labuschagne missed out in the first innings on a pitch made for batters. In the second innings, they put their heads down and both went past 50 for the first time in the series.
The conditions did get progressively difficult as the Test progressed, but the pitch was so slow it didn't result in actual wickets. The control percentage went from 90.3 in the first innings to 90.7 in the second to 86.8 in the third innings. Normally, Tests start with those third-innings numbers and get progressively difficult.
No matter the flatness, funny things can happen when you are trying to save a Test. Also, Usman Khawaja, Australia's leading run-scorer for the series, had injured himself and was going to bat only if desperately needed. Head and Labuschagne made sure there was nothing of the sort even after Kuhnemann fell early on the day.
Head also made sure the runs came quickly, which took Australia to parity and then past India's lead. Labuschagne was in no rush: he just wanted to enjoy his time in the sun. The closest India came to getting him out was when Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin found his inside edge, but Jadeja didn't have a short leg at all, and Ashwin didn't have a backward short-leg.
Head was nearing what would have been an immensely satisfying hundred, but Axar Patel did him with a flighted ball that landed in the rough. It got him to 50 wickets in just 12 Tests even though he has got just three in this series.
By the time the final session began, the only matter of interest was if Labuschagne would get to a hundred. That interest was killed pretty quickly as he kept patting back half-volleys, and added just seven to his 56 at tea. Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara got a bowl too, and the teams shook hand at the earliest possible moment they could have done so: with 17.5 overs remaining.
Australia declared at that point to give India 15 overs to bat, which is when the sides can agree to end a Test in a draw. That was as emphatic a statement as any against the pitch rolled out for the Test.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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