Australia fumble up on tactics, swept over by Indian tail & spin

Team India
Ravindra Jadeja, second right, celebrates with teammates after wrapping up the Australian second innings. Photo: PTI/Arun Sharma

India retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a hard-fought six-wicket win over Australia in the second Test in New Delhi to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match series on Sunday.

The victory also helped India move closer to yet another home series win and also a place in the World Test Championship final. 

Though India won again inside three days, it was an engrossing affair unlike the series opener at Nagpur. Australia fought hard on the first two days on a challenging wicket at the Arun Jaitley Stadium. 

In fact the visitors played it smart on the first couple of days. They took the gamble of going in with a solitary pacer in captain Pat Cummins and fielded three spinners, including debutant Matthew Kuhnemann.

Cummins won an important toss and gritty half-centuries by opener Umsan Khawaja (81) and Peter Handscomb (72 not out) meant they managed a decent first innings total of 263. 

A five-wicket haul by veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon had the home side reeling at 139/7 in reply. 

Ashwin and Axar
R Ashwin and Axar Patel rescued India with a century stand. Photo: PTI/Arun Sharma

But the Indian lower order came to their rescue as Axar Patel (74) and R Ashwin (37) were involved in a game-changing 114-run stand for the eighth wicket. The rearguard action meant Australia's lead was trimmed to just a single run and it came down to a virtual one-innings shootout.

The tourists ended the second day on top as they raced to 61/1 in just 12 overs with some aggressive batting. Makeshift opener Travis Head and No. 3 Marnus Labuschagne took the attack to the Indian spinners in the short session.

Ravindra Jadeja
Ravindra Jadeja, centre, was the wrecker-in-chief. Photo: Twitter@BCCI

However, the Australians got their tactics wrong on the third morning. In fact, one bad session cost the visitors dearly. Australia's method of relying heavily on the sweep shot - conventional and reverse - led to their downfall against the spin pair of Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin. 

Left-armer Jadeja took career-best figures of 7/42 while Ashwin chipped in with 3/59. The Australians lost 9/52 as they were bundled out for 113 in just 31.1 overs.

A 150-plus target would have made it really tough for the home batters. On the contrary, they overhauled the modest target of 115 in 26.4 overs. Captain Rohit Sharma hit an enterprising 31 as India got off to quick start despite another failure for K L Rahul. Cheteshwar Pujara took them home in his 100th Test with a solid 31 not out with wicketkeeper-batter Srikar Bharat (23 not out) for company.

The defeat dashed Australia's hopes of winning a series on Indian soil after a gap of 19 years. This loss would rankle them for they had a genuine chance of squaring the series. The momentum is all with India and a 4-0 rout looks possible.

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