India, a team of match-winners
What a fantastic comeback by Virat Kohli and his team.
With India having conceded 87 runs on a very difficult pitch, the eventual result would have been hard to predict at the outset. The win, seeped deep in records, was a result of teamwork. And in doing so, the hosts dispelled the popular notion that the Indian team thrives more on individual performances rather than contributions from the team as a whole.
While the series is 1-1 on paper, in reality, India is far ahead. When a team comes from behind to win, the confident heightens. And when you lose from a position of strength, the morale depletes drastically.
Australia had the opportunity to pocket the match in Bengaluru. Having squandered it, the next games won't be so easy for them. The match was a veritable exhibition of fluctuating fortunes. Firstly, India failed to reach 200 runs after winning the toss and handing the advantage to Australia. They had fallen to Nathan Lyon’s line and variable bounce. The off-spinner had saved his best for India at Bengaluru.
However, the hosts regrouped on the second day and seemed to be bowling with a plan. The wicket offered variable bounce, playing a little up and down.
Now, this always plays on the minds of the batsmen and the bowlers look to exploit this to the hilt. The Indian seamers did just that as they worked to contain the Australian batsmen and choke up the runs. Once the bowlers restricted Australia’s lead to within 100 runs while riding on Ravindra Jadeja's 6 wickets haul, there was a glimmer of hope for India.
Openers are always a pillar of strength for any team and KL Rahul really impressed everyone. He looked like the only batsman who had a measure of the wicket in both innings. Batting was never easy on this wicket and a "defendable target" was an unknown entity of sorts.
Cheteshwar Pujara came into bat at a point that required him to dig deep into his ability, to remain patient, calm and focused. His partnership with Ajinkya Rahane was a match winning one and a commendable effort. Despite the failure of Virat Kohli in both innings, the other batsmen sensed the situation and stepped up against the quality attack of the Australians.
Both Test match wickets so far were perfect for bowlers. The biggest gain from Bengaluru for India has to the performance of the bowlers. While playing with only four bowlers might have hampered India's chances, Jadeja's spell in the first innings laid all concerns to rest. In the second essay, when R Ashwin stepped up, there was going to be only one winner.
Did India really believe that 187 was enough? From what KL Rahul said in the post-match interview, they apparently did. But Australia would certainly have fancied their chances of pulling off the run chase.
David Warner was crucial to their chances but when he was sent back for 17, the bulk of responsibility fell on Steven Smith. With plenty to do and wickets constantly tumbling, it was eventually a hard act to pull.
While R Ashwin ran through Australia, both spinners were instrumental to India’s victory. That said, the fast-bowling duo of Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav deserve a mention.
It isn’t easy for fast bowlers to remain tuned in when you are playing a supporting role to the spinners. But at Bengaluru, every time Sharma and Yadav ran in, a wicket seemed to be just around the corner.
Their tight line and length coupled with accurate deliveries meant that the batsmen were pinned to the crease. Their efforts in both the innings deserves praise.
Likewise, the spells of Josh Hazelwood and Mitchell Starc in India’s second innings were one of the finest you would ever watch on Indian soil. It was a treat to those that enjoy fast bowling and a fantastic learning opportunity for youngsters.
The DRS controversy threatened to overshadow India’s fine win. It was a big surprise that despite Steven Smith’s own admission of his wrongdoing, there was inaction from the match referee. Taking directions from the dressing room on the usage of DRS when the rules don't permit absolutely amounts to cheating.
With series now level and India on the ascendency, Australia will have to play out of their skins to prevent the hosts from making it 3-1.