Pant, Gill seal incredible final-day chase as India clinch fairytale series 2-1
The injury-ravaged India pulled off one of the greatest fourth innings chases in the history of Test cricket to win the Border-Gavaskar Trophy on an unforgettable Tuesday evening at the Gabba in Brisbane.
In a ground where Australia had not lost a Test since 1988, India did the impossible, chasing 328 to beat the home team by three wickets to claim the four-Test series 2-1.
This was a stunning turnaround for a team that were bowled out for 36 in the second innings of the first Test in Adelaide.
With an emphatic win in the second Test in Melbourne, India kept the series alive by grinding out a hard-fought draw in the third Test at the SCG, despite losing several players to injury.
And on the final day of the final Test in Brisbane, it was the fearless Rishabh Pant (89 not out, 138 balls, 9 fours, 1 six) that helped India script one of their greatest Test wins with his exhilarating stroke-play.
Pant was backed by debutant Washington Sundar (22, 29 balls, 2 fours, 1 six), whose superb partnership for the seventh wicket with Shardul Thakur frustrated Australia in the first innings. Sundar rose to the occasion again after India lost Cheteshwar Pujara (56, 211 balls, 7 fours) and Mayank Agarwal (9) to the brilliant Pat Cummins (4/44).
Earlier, Shubman Gill fell short of a brilliant century and Pujara was battered and bruised but India kept on fighting.
Spinner Nathan Lyon ended Gill’s sparkling knock at 91 and Pat Cummins had stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane caught behind for a rapid-fire 24 but Pujara survived a vicious pace assault as India pushed to 183 for three.
Pujara was 43 not out on a hot and sunny afternoon at the Gabba, with hard-hitting wicketkeeper Pant on 10.
Pant was promoted ahead of Mayank Agarwal as India signalled their intent to push for the win.
The highest successful chase in a Gabba Test was in 1951 when Australia finished 236 for seven, but there have been big scores in recent years. Pakistan racked up 450 in the fourth innings at the ground in a lost cause in 2016.
India resumed on 83 for one after lunch, and 21-year-old Gill picked up where he had left off, punishing Australia’s bowlers with raw aggression.
Smashing an injury-hampered Mitchell Starc for a six and two fours in three balls, Gill also took to Lyon with gusto.
His brilliant 146-ball knock was finally ended when he prodded at a Lyon delivery that pitched wide and sent a nick to the safe hands of Steve Smith at slip.
Rahane came out with a similar mindset and raced to 24 off 22 balls before Cummins removed him with a short ball that clipped the top edge of the captain’s bat as he tried to duck under it.
The courageous Pujara endured a torrid time at the crease, receiving multiple blows to the helmet and body.
He was assessed twice by the team doctor, and had the stem guard knocked off his helmet when paceman Josh Hazlewood fired a bouncer at his head.
The frustrated Hazlewood offered no sympathy, instead yelling: “Feel that one?”
Cummins took the early wicket, coaxing Rohit Sharma forward to catch a thick edge to be out for seven, with Paine diving to his right to take the catch.
Gill survived a big appeal for lbw after not playing a shot when on 30 against Lyon.
Given not out, Australia reviewed the decision. Though the ball-tracking technology showed the delivery crashing into the top of leg-stump, the decision was deemed “umpire’s call” and Gill survived.
A desperate Australia later squandered a review seeking to overturn a not out decision for lbw on Rahane, when Lyon rapt his pads and the batsman was on one run.