India completes first ever series win in Australia

India has created history, winning a series in Australia for the first time since their inaugural tour in the country way back in 1947. The feat was accomplished at around 2.30pm AEDT on Monday after what turned out to be relatively uninteresting and largely uncompetitive match was called off due to inclement weather. The match, in which India piled together 622 runs in the first innings to all but rule out Australia’s hopes of a victory and subsequent drawn series, saw Australia asked to follow on after conceding a 322 run deficit. They made it to 0/6 after following on before rain and bad light interrupted much of the fourth day and the entirety of the fifth.

Though thoroughly deserving of a 3-1 series victory, India will be more than happy with the 2-1 accomplishment. Particularly given the fact that both sides are regularly up there with the best in the world and the past 50 years has seen India win eight series against Australia compared to Australia’s six wins (there have also been three tied series), it seems astonishing that the visitors had never before won Down Under - and they haven’t often got particularly close.

In 2014/15 they lost 2-0, while the series prior to that - in the summer of 2011/12 - the visitors were whitewashed 4-0. The previous two series’ - first in 2003/04 and then in 2007/08 - were much more competitive, with India drawing the first of them 1-1 and losing the second 2-1. 

A look at the past series results very quickly highlights the advantage of playing at home between the two nations, with the vastly different playing conditions in the subcontinent compared to in Australia meaning whoever is playing on their home turf has, almost without fail, taken out the series.

Heading into this Border-Gavaskar Trophy, however, there were plenty who predicted the historic feat. Australia is struggling, having dropped to fifth in the world rankings. Their bowling lineup - featuring Mitch Starc (though admittedly out of form), Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon - is world-class, but it is their batting which is of significant concern. There was a lack of depth to start with, but with their two best batsmen in David Warner and Steve Smith still suspended for their role in the ball-tampering saga, it looked desperately thin heading into this Test series - and that proved telling. 

New opener Marcus Harris looked solid at times and ended up topping the batting averages for the Aussies on the back of a solid 79 in the first innings of the final Test, but his numbers of 258 at 36.85 weren’t exactly eye-popping. Travis Head came next with an average of 33.85, while Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine all averaged under 30 and Aaron Finch managed just 97 runs for the series at an average of 16.16.

Each batting performance throughout the series by the home side was punctuated by numerous starts and an inability to go on with it, as evidenced by the fact that Harris’ 79 in Sydney was, incredibly, the highest score throughout the entire series for an Australian batsman. Typically, players playing above their skill level have a tendency to go out after making starts, and this was likely the case for a number of the players in the Australian batting lineup.

In contrast, the Indians were fantastic all around. Their Chetashwar Pujara won the Man of the Series award in a canter, having accumulated 528 runs at 74.42 and generally looking impossible to dislodge. Rishadh Pant averaged 58.33, and though Kohli’s average of 40.28 is below what we’ve come to expect from him, it didn’t matter - an important demonstration that India aren’t reliant on their superstar.

In the field they were equally impressive. Jasprit Bumrah was probably Pujara’s closest competitor for Man of the Series for his 21 wickets at an average of just 17, while Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin all averaged under 30. Kuldeep Yadav came in for the final Test on the spinning Sydney wicket, and quickly made a name for himself with 5/99 in the only innings he bowled.

A 2-1 series looks close, and though the first two Tests were exactly that, the last two highlighted just how much better a cricket side India currently are, and how deserving of this rare overseas Border-Gavaskar victory they are. Australia will be a better side once Smith and Warner return - the latter contingent on whether he’ll actually be accepted back into the side - but they have a long way to go to catch an Indian team which, with this victory, has well and truly proved that they are the best side in the world - and not just on their home soil.

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