Ajinkya Rahane’s hundred in the first innings of the Boxing Day Test set the match beautifully for the visitors. It was a real captain’s knock especially when the team’s back was against the wall. Without Virat Kohli, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Rohit Sharma, not many gave India a chance of winning an overseas Test but Rahane had different ideas.
India wrapped the Test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on the fourth day as they easily chased down the 70-run target set up by the hosts in their second innings at the expense of just two wickets. With this memorable win, India managed to win its fourth match at the MCG which makes it the most successful cricket ground for India in overseas conditions. This victory marked India’s fifth win on Australian soil, which is the joint-most by any international team in the last two decades.
Let’s understand how the Indians were able to stack up this massive victory against all the odds. Here are the major talking points from the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
WAS THIS AJINKYA RAHANE’S BEST-EVER INNINGS?
In the absence of Virat Kohli, India needed someone to step up and lead the team by example. Rahane did exactly what was required from him. He made some bold selection calls ahead of the match and went in with the aggressive move of playing five proper bowlers in the starting XI. He promoted himself up the batting order to number four and played the situation exceptionally well. After bowling out Australia for 195 in their first innings, India needed a strong first-innings lead to set the match up for themselves. Everyone was focussed closely on what India’s response will be after getting out for 36 in the previous match and the response was exactly what it should have been. Rahane paced his innings beautifully and wore the Aussie bowlers down when they were on top. It wasn’t particularly an easy pitch to score runs on and Rahane respected the conditions notched up his 12th Test century in style. Arguably the most important knock in his career but still the Mumbaikar rates his hundred at Lord’s slightly higher than this one.
TWO DEBUTANTS STEP UP FOR INDIA
India made some bold selection calls ahead of the Boxing Day Test and rectified the errors they made in the previous match. The team management wasn’t afraid of handing two debuts in this crunch match and the young boys stepped up when it was most needed. Shubman Gill and Mohammed Siraj have been standout players in the First-Class circuit and have put in some great performances for India-A as well. They both looked like they belonged to the highest level of cricket in conditions which can be overwhelming for players making their international debuts. Mohammed Siraj picked up five wickets in the match and swung the ball both ways. Shubman, on the other hand, survived the toughest period in that Test against the new-ball Australian bowlers and scored an impressive 45 in the first innings and followed that up with a 35 not out in the second innings to win the match for his country by eight wickets.
JASPRIT BUMRAH AND R ASHWIN ARE REAL LEADERS
India came into this match with their backs against the wall and they needed leaders from that team to step and lead by example. That’s exactly what the senior players in the team did. Ajinkya Rahane stepped up with the bat while with the ball it was the class of R Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah which stood out. Bumrah was the pick of the bowlers in the first innings with a four-wicket haul while Ashwin got the big fish of the opponent, Steven Smith in the first innings and Marnus Labuschagne in the second innings. Bumrah and Ashwin flourished in testing conditions and if they continue doing so, India stands in good stead of retaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
STEVEN SMITH’S FORM IS A HUGE CONCERN FOR THE HOSTS
With his exploits in the One Day Internationals, people expected Steven Smith to dominate the Test arena as well and emerge as the standout batsman of the series. The Indians seem like they have prepared long and hard to make solid bowling plans against Smith and so far they have worked tremendously. They have choked him for runs and have targeted his stumps while bowling at him. R Ashwin has got the better of him on a couple of occasions now and Jasprit Bumrah knocked out his leg stump in the second innings which was a beautiful sight to witness for an Indian fan. Smith has many questions to answer in the coming two Tests and his lack of form is a huge concern for the Aussies. In the two Tests, Smith has just managed to score 10 runs at an average of 3.33. This needs to improve drastically if the Australians want to win the series.
RAVINDRA JADEJA ADDS THE MUCH-NEEDED BALANCE
Before the start of this Test, people wanted to see Ravindra Jadeja feature in the starting line up at the MCG and credit goes to the management that they went in with the aggressive option of playing five bowlers for this Test. Jadeja was as effective as ever with the ball as he picked up three wickets in the Test and kept one end tight throughout the match. But it was his efforts with the bat that helped India get the massive first-innings lead it needed. He scored 57 in the first innings but more importantly, he played out 159 balls for his half-century and stayed there with captain Rahane for the majority of the innings. He looked like a proper batsman and that further proves his coming of age as a batter at the international stage.
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