Australia bounced back with a nine-wicket win over India in the third Test in Indore on Friday to stay alive in the four-match series. The win also helped them seal a spot in the final of the ICC World Test Championship (WTC).
The Indians had their back to the wall once they lost five wickets inside the first hour and were bundled out for 109 in just 33.2 overs after opting to bat on a rank turner.
The Australians gave the hosts a taste of their own medicine as rookie left-arm spinner Matthew Kuhnemann picked up five wickets, while veteran office Nathan Lyon chipped in with three wickets. The other off-spinner Todd Murphy accounted for top-scorer Virat Kohli (22).
Though Ravindra Jadeja sent back Australian opener Travis Head for nine, the second-wicket pair of Usman Khawaja (60) and Marnus Labuschagne (31) added 96 priceless runs. Labuschagne made the most of a reprieve as he was bowled off a Jadeja no-ball even before he had opened his account. The second-wicket stand was instrumental in the tourists gaining a precious first-innings lead of 88 runs despite a stunning collapse which saw them lose 6/11 to be bowled out for 197.
The Indians did not fare well in the second innings either barring a gritty 59 by veteran Cheteshwar Pujara. Opener Shubman Gill, who came into the side in place of a struggling K L Rahul, played a horrendous shot off Lyon, while Kohli failed yet again at a critical juncture.
Lyon was the wrecker-in-chief as he picked up 8/64 to bowl out India for 163. Steve Smith, who was back at the helm, had an excellent game as captain. He was spot on with the field placings and bowling changes. Smith also pulled off a blinder at leg slip to end Pujara's defiance. Khawaja had earlier produced a screamer to cut short Shreyas Iyer's run-a-ball 26.
For once the Indian lower order failed to bail the team out. The target of 76 was never going to threaten the Aussies.
They romped home in just 18.5 overs with Head (49 not out) and Labuschagne (28 not out) adding 78 for the unbroken second wicket on the third morning.
India need to rethink their ploy of picking up two seamers on turning tracks. Mohammed Siraj bowled just six overs in the match. Kuldeep Yadav could well come in for Siraj in the series decider in Ahmedabad.
The Australian win sets up the series nicely. A win for India in the final Test will guarantee them a place in the WTC final and the series, while an Australian victory will help them square the series.