Day Five: A fitting finale for the torchbearers of a new India

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18 Jan 2021 | 11:48 PM
authorSomesh Agarwal

Day Five: A fitting finale for the torchbearers of a new India

Heroics from Pant and Gill breached Australia's fortress, handing India one of the most iconic series wins ever

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If you were there, at the ground, in front of a TV, in your office stealthily streaming this game live. If you were there, sleep-deprived, holding your breath, calming your beating heart. This is a day that you will hold close to your heart. This is a day you will speak of years later, not forgetting to mention - “I was there".

The only achievement that remotely comes near this monumental feat by an Indian side in recent years is winning the World T20 in 2007. Like then, this series was another example of what the hunger in young players can achieve if allowed to foster.

Like everything in the series, the win did not come easy. Pat Cummins bowled his heart out. Like he does every time with a ball in hand. He got Rohit Sharma early on day 5. The one man India needed to fire, at least as per the consensus ahead of the day. But, this match belonged to the new India. Shubman Gill made sure of directing it towards that fate. 

Who says Gabba is tough to bat on for a visitor? If they pitched it up Gill drove them with ease. If they tried hard lengths the cut or the pull was on. Australia were getting worried. A short ball tactic was on the cards. But, what difference does it make? There was not a care in the world if there were two fielders deep, one hanging a yard inside the rope for a top edge. 

With not a fear, Gill hooked Starc over the ropes, hit an upper-cut over the cordon and pulled him to pierce the fielders on the on-side. All this in consecutive balls. All this in a 20-run over, Starc’s most expensive ever. There was no help from the pitch for him. He was of no help to Australia. 

Gill departed an over later. Lyon chucked the middle and leg line and got his outside edge. Another Indian missed a well-deserved hundred. But, a 97 and a 91 in this series have been much more impactful than a hundred in any other. Just like that night at Wankhede in 2011.

Cheteshwar Pujara got hit eleven times, maybe twelve, one loses count after some time. Cummins got his shoulders and ribs. Hazlewood came for his fingers and head. Only once did he flinch. But never was he rattled. He hit his slowest half-century ever, off 196 balls. Was he making it tough for India to win? Or was he like a typical fatherly figure, living conservatively so that the new India could have enough freedom to not worry about the cost of failure? Maybe the latter.     

The skipper walked in at four and made his intentions clear. India were going for a win. He was on 25 in no time. Then Cummins struck back. Like he did throughout the series. Ajinkya Rahane was gone. It was still anyone’s game.

Rishabh Pant was in next. The only man capable of taking India to a victory. He knew it and maybe that is why there were no careless strokes today. His strike-rate on the first 30 balls was 33.33. Along with Pujara, he nibbled at the target.

Then came the new ball with 20 overs to go in the day and a 100 runs to get. Standing between India and a memorable win was Cummins, for one last time. He knew it was him vs India. His country needed him to defend the fortress.

Cummins gave India nervous moments removing Pujara first and Mayank Agarwal soon after. The new ball was moving. Even while batting in the middle-order, facing the new ball was Mayank’s destiny. But he got out attacking. There was a game to be won. The pitch was playing tricks. Maybe a little too late for the Aussies. 

First-class experience or not, India needed Washington Sundar's help once more. But, India needed everyone to just support Pant. Australia expected Pant to throw it away. The usually aggressive Aussies had fielders at the boundary. They were waiting for him to lose patience and mistime one. A mistimed shot never arrived. Maybe once, but the match was over by then. In the interim was astute defence, supreme drives along the ground and maturity way above his age. The T20 era lap-shots waited till the end was in sight. 

There was a forecast for rain but the gods failed to turn up. Maybe they were busy watching. The entire country would have taken a draw. But not the men out there. Not Sundar who hit Cummins out of the attack. Not after he swivelled to clear him over the ropes. His walk to the pavilion after playing a reverse sweep on his stumps with six runs needed was the slowest in recent times. First-class experience or not, he wanted to be there till the end.

The players wanted to finish with a bang. Taking the high-risk route. They deserved this freedom of expression. The entire country does. That freedom is what brought India close today. In the end, they got the team home and that is what matters.

After breaking the winning streak in 2001, repeating it in 2008. After becoming the first Asian side to beat Australia at the WACA. India have breached Fort Gabba and have handed a Test match defeat to Australia there after 32 years. The new India has arrived.

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IndiaAustraliaIndia tour of Australia, 2020/21Australia vs India - 4th Test - Border-Gavaskar Trophy, 2020/21Shubman GillPatrick James CumminsCheteshwar Arvind PujaraRishabh Rajendra PantWashington Sundar

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