Cricket: Pant smashes India to series win for the ages

Cricket – ICC Cricket World Cup Semi Final – India v New Zealand – Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain – July 10, 2019. India’s Rishabh Pant in action. Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

(Reuters) – Rishabh Pant unleashed a batting maelstrom to blast India to an incredible three-wicket win in the fourth test decider on Tuesday as Ajinkya Rahane’s injury-ravaged tourists humbled Australia with a 2-1 series triumph.

The pugnacious Pant timed his innings to perfection, ramping up the aggression in a stellar 89 as India stormed to a record 328-run chase at the Gabba and became the first team to beat the hosts at the Brisbane stronghold since the West Indies in 1988.

With regular captain Virat Kohli savouring fatherhood back home, India mowed down 145 runs after tea on day five to claim a win for the ages when Pant smashed Josh Hazlewood to the long-off fence with 18 balls to spare.

“This is one of the biggest moments of my life now,” the wicketkeeper-batsman Pant said after being named Man of the Match.

“It’s been a dream series.”

With 21 wickets, Australia paceman Pat Cummins was Man of the Series yet Pant may have had a bigger claim.

His brilliant fourth innings 97 in Sydney proved decisive as India saved the third test and set up one last push in Brisbane.

There were nonetheless heroes galore in the Indian dressing room, though not a single first-choice bowler at the Gabba.

There was two-test paceman Shardul Thakur and debutant all-rounder Washington Sundar who grabbed 11 wickets between them, then combined for a courageous 123-run stand in India’s first innings to drag them back from the brink.

On Tuesday, there was three-test opener Shubman Gill contributing 91 after his senior partner Rohit Sharma fell for seven.

Cheteshwar Pujara stitched it all together, soaking up 211 balls in his obdurate 56 and wearing about a dozen body blows from Australia’s frustrated pacemen.

India retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, two years after beating Australia in the 2018-19 series Down Under, and also shot to the top of the World Test Championship.

This victory, however, was a far greater achievement as the previous series Australia lacked their best batsmen in Steve Smith and David Warner due to a ball-tampering scandal.


The jubilant scenes at the Gabba were also a far cry from the Adelaide opener when India were bowled out for 36, their lowest ever test innings, in a three-day thrashing.

Yet they rallied superbly to win in Melbourne and belief flooded after seeing off Australia in Sydney.

Australia battled hard to claim late wickets in Brisbane.

With India’s tail shaky, hearts were in mouths after Josh Hazlewood removed Thakur for two, with three runs left to score.

Yet Pant had the presence of mind to sneak a single as Thakur’s shot flew to Nathan Lyon at square leg, winning back the strike for his final coup de grace.

Questions will be asked about Tim Paine’s captaincy after the home side proved powerless to bowl India out on successive day five pitches.

“Absolutely disappointed,” said Paine, who was jeered by sections of the crowd at the post-match presentation.

“It’s been a bit of a trend that we were found wanting in the key moments and completely outplayed by a tough Indian side that fully deserves the win.”

Rahane will be the toast of India, however, and now holds an unbeaten record of four wins in five tests.

“It really means a lot to us. I don’t know how to describe this victory. I’m just proud of all the boys,” said Rahane.

“Credit to Pujara, the way he handled the pressure was magnificent, and Rishabh was brilliant in the end.”



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