India pulled off one of its greatest Test wins, responding from a nightmare start to the Border Gavaskar series to stun Australia by eight wickets at the MCG.
An Ajinkya Rahane-inspired India bounced back from its record-low of 36 in Adelaide 10 days ago to chase down Australia’s fourth-innings target of 70 in the second Test.
Even without star captain Virat Kohli, India levelled the series at one-all to become the first touring side to win consecutive Boxing Day Tests in Melbourne since England in 1982 and 1986.
Australia’s lower order, spearheaded by young all-rounder Cameron Green, added 67 runs in the first session on day four after resuming on 6-133 to be all out for 200.
India suffered some early anxious moments in the tiny chase, falling to 2-19, but rookie opener Shubman Gill (35 not out) and stand-in skipper Rahane (27 not out) guided the tourists home in the 16th over on Tuesday.
Led superbly by Rahane, who was awarded man of the match for his courageous 112 in the first innings, India controlled the contest from day one when they rolled Australia for 195.
Although Rahane’s 12th Test century, which Indian legend Sunil Gavaskar hailed as one of the most important innings in the country’s history, was vital, it was the bowlers who laid the foundation.
Australia’s batting problems were exposed by a disciplined Indian bowling unit that never allowed the batsmen to settle.
It was the first time since 1988 Australia have had a home Test without any batsman posting a half-century – Marnus Labuschagne’s first-innings 48 was the hosts’ top score.
India could have slumped when veteran quick Umesh Yadav hobbled off with a lower-leg injury, shortly after dismissing out-of-form opener Joe Burns for four to follow the Australian’s first-innings duck.
But star quick Jasprit Bumrah and pace debutant Mohammed Siraj stepped up with spinners Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to never relent against the brittle Australian top order.
The load was shared between the frontline attack in both innings, with Bumrah (six wickets), Ashwin (five) and Siraj (five) dominating.
“Character and attitude was really important going into the Test match, but there’s still lots to learn for us as a team,” Rahane said.
It was hard for us because (we were down to) four bowlers, but credit to each and every individual for showing their passion and their character.’’
India could be given an extra boost with speculation the next Test will be held at the MCG, instead of the SCG, due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Its only concern will be finding a replacement fast bowler if Yadav is ruled out of the next match.
But Australia has plenty of soul-searching to do after losing its first Test on home soil since the corresponding match in 2018.
Justin Langer’s team went undefeated last summer with clean sweeps against Pakistan (2-0) and New Zealand (3-0).
Burns’ poor run will almost certainly see him dropped, particularly with David Warner set to return from injury.
But it wasn’t just the batting that cost Australia, with abysmal fielding in the first innings allowing India to reach 326.
Australia captain Tim Paine was left bitterly disappointed by the performance.
“We played pretty poor cricket and sloppy cricket for much of the Test match. That’s to take nothing away from India,” Paine said.
“They forced us into a number of mistakes with the bat and in the field, and when you do that against good sides, you make it very hard to win.”