IND vs AUS: Four on the trot
The Ahmedabad Test ended in a dull draw even as India beat Australia in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy again
A thrilling series came to a tame end when the fourth and final Test of the Border-Gavaskar series ended in a dull draw on the fifth day at the Narendra Modi Stadium. But in terms of results, it wasn't exactly a bad day for Rohit Sharma’s men -- they won the series 2-1 and New Zealand's victory over Sri Lanka at Christchurch confirmed their place in the final of the World Test Championship, where they will play Australia again.
The series win was another reminder of how India have managed to dominate Australia, in recent years, in a tough rivalry. India have won 2-1 in 2017 (in India), 2-1 in 2018/19 (in Australia), 2-1 in 2020/21 (in Australia), 2-1 in 2023 (in India). Each time Australia have had a chance to make a comeback or seize the advantage in these series', India found a way to win. This series was no different -- Australia had their chances but in the big moments, India were better.
This will to win will hold Rohit Sharma and his team in good stead in the WTC final as well. The last time both teams played a series in England, both had drawn against the hosts 2-2.
“We wanted to win 3-1 that didn’t happen but I will take 2-1 as it’s not easy to win against Australia. If you see from Nagpur to Ahmedabad, we have had our share of challenges throughout and we didn't get any easy victories. The boys are happy. At the end of the day the result is satisfying," said Sharma after being handed over the Border-Gavaskar Trophy by Sunil Gavaskar.
India started the day 88 runs in front of Australia and were optimistic about putting pressure on the visitors. A few wickets in the first session could have opened up the game. But the spinners who tormented the batters throughout the series couldn’t get any help from the benign surface even on the fifth day. Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne safely negotiated the crucial period until lunch break to extinguish any hopes of a result.
In sharp contrast to the dull proceedings at Motera, the New Zealand versus Sri Lanka Test at the Hagley Oval was moving towards a thrilling climax. The news of Kane Williamson taking New Zealand to a two-wicket win was greeted with handshakes and smiles by the Indian players as they walked out after the break.
The last ball thriller at the Hagley Oval, however, also had no impact on the proceedings in Ahmedabad. With the game not heading anywhere, captain Steve Smith chose to declare at 175/2, 10 minutes before the start of the last hour of play.
No one is complaining though about how things have panned out in this WTC cycle -- 2021-23. India versus Australia is a dream final. The conditions will be different at The Oval but the players are already looking forward to the game.
“Speaking of playing them in finals, it will be a different ball game with a neutral venue for both teams. Both teams have played a lot of cricket in that part of the world and I won’t say it will be alien conditions for both teams but yes, compared to what it is like playing India in India or Australia in Australia, it is not going to be like that, it would be slightly different from that which I am sure both teams will prepare for it,” said captain Rohit.
Keeping their players fresh for the title clash will be a challenge for the India team management though. A lot of things would have changed by the time the India side will regroup for the final on June 7. After the three ODIs against Australia, for two months the India players will be involved in the grueling Indian Premier League.
"Look, I think it’s quite critical for us, we're going to keep in constant touch with all players who are going to play that final and monitor their workload and see what’s happening with them," said Rohit. “In fact, we are sending some Duke Balls to all fast bowlers and if they get some time to bowl with that but again it all depends on the individuals. I believe in preparation and preparations will be key for us come the final.”
Getting the players early to England for acclimatization is also being planned, said the captain. “Around May 21, there will be six teams who will be possibly out of IPL play-off contention and so whichever players are available, we will try and find time to get them to UK early as possible. and get some time and we will monitor as much as possible.”