When the two teams shook hands, the only thing missing was the waving of white flags in surrender. What began as an old Indian surface obstinately refused to deteriorate even in the unforgiving heat.
Making pitches that deliver results is more art than science and this one just didn’t allow for either team to push for a result, although India began the final day with high hopes.
Fortunately for Rohit Sharma and his merry men, they knew halfway into the day that a draw was enough to book a place in the World Test Championship (WTC) Final at The Oval in London in June.
New Zealand did India the favour of not having to wait and watch when they stole a brave thriller when time was running out against a spirited Sri Lanka.
For India, 2-1 was a fair result against this Australian team. As hard as they fought, Australia made several tactical errors early in the series. They left out Travis Head, possibly the most instinctively good batsman in Indian conditions. They brought Ashton Agar along before calling for Matt Kuhnemann and sending the incumbent home.
Much was expected of Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, but neither delivered the big innings when the series was still there for the taking. Usman Khawaja provided a masterclass in playing spin in subcontinental conditions, but it came on the least threatening surface of the series. While his crease occupation, conditioning and fitness were admirable, what with him batting 611 minutes, it also paved the way for India’s batsmen to believe.Early wickets on the final day might have opened a door, but the surface just stayed too true for India’s spinners to impose themselves.
The one bonus on the day was Axar Patel scalping his 50th Test wicket when he landed one in the rough and got significant turn to bowl Head (90) through the gate. Axar has been a talisman for India in this series, not with the ball, but with his cool, calm and steady batting that got him 264 runs, second in the Indian charts only to Virat Kohli, who made 186 of his 297 runs in one innings.
On helpful surfaces, Axar is almost unplayable, given his accuracy and unstinting delivery of the ball on a spot, but he had been put on the back burner a bit in this series with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja being so penetrative.
The spin duo shared the Player of the Series award, and only fairly so, with Ashwin providing the big wickets and standing tall on a good batting surface even if he didn’t have the volume of wickets that he is used to.
The final day of the Test series was played with one eye on the WTC final, and with India qualifying to take on Australia, there was enough time and space to cast an eye to the short-term future. The conditions there will be completely different and this will mean the composition of the teams will also change.
For India, the absence of Jasprit Bumrah will mean Mohammad Shami assumes the role of leader of the attack. He will be joined by two quicks and at the moment those places are taken by Mohammad Siraj, the most effervescent in India’s stable, and Umesh Yadav, who has proven his worth time and again. This will mean that one of the spinners misses out, and that could be a tight call given that all three provide something with the bat
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