ADELAIDE: India won their first Test on Australian soil in a decade Monday, bowling out the home side in a nail-biting finale to clinch the opening match and raise hopes of their first ever series victory Down Under.
Wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant pouched a world record-equalling 11 catches for the match as India, after setting an improbable target of 323, finally dismissed Australia to win by 31 runs on day five at Adelaide Oval.
Australia, attempting what would have been a record chase at the ground, gallantly battled to 291 before Josh Hazlewood became the last man to fall to Ravichandran Ashwin, who finished with 3-92. Shaun Marsh made 62 and Tim Paine 41.
It was a huge breakthrough for captain Virat Kohli’s men, who went 1-0 up with three Tests to go after becoming the first Indian team to win the opening match of a Test series in Australia.
Pant took the plaudits after matching the record of 11 catches in a Test held by England’s Jack Russell and South Africa’s AB de Villiers.
India’s last Test success in Australia was at the WACA Ground in Perth in 2008, and the previous one in Adelaide was 2003. They have now won just six times in Australia in more than 70 years.
But with the home team missing banned batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner, Kohli and his team sensed ahead of the tour that this could be their opportunity to make history by winning the series.
They now take the momentum into the second Test in Perth starting Friday, with Melbourne and Sydney to follow.
“The odds were stacked against them. They fought really well but we executed our plans well and got that last wicket which we were intending to get,” said Kohli.
“I’m super-proud of the bowlers, to have four bowlers and take 20 wickets is a great achievement and something that we haven’t done in the past.
“It shows us that if the batsmen step up regularly, we will be gunning for a win in every Test match.”
Paine, who fell to a rash shot after lunch, said the defeat was “shattering” but he was proud of the way the team took it to the wire.
“We thought we could win, no doubt about that. We saw how the pitch is playing and told ourselves we are going to dig deep, but unfortunately, myself, Travis (Head) and Shaun couldn’t bat long as long as we should have.”
Australia resumed the final day needing another 219 for victory with four wickets down, but lost their last two specialist batsmen before lunch, shifting the odds heavily in India’s favour.
Marsh and Head had started cautiously, grinding out 11 runs in the opening seven overs before seamer Ishant Sharma struck with the score on 115, bowling a bouncer that caught Head’s bat as he tried to fend it off and Ajinkya Rahane took the catch at gully.
Paine joined Marsh and they upped the ante, capitalising on some loose balls from Shami to chip away steadily and close the gap.
Marsh brought up a valuable 50 — his 10th in Tests — with a boundary from a pull shot off spinner Ashwin.
It was a much-needed knock for the left-hander, who was on a run of six consecutive single-figure Test scores, although he has been in scintillating form in domestic cricket.
But Marsh didn’t last much longer with Jasprit Bumrah getting the big breakthrough as he pushed at a perfectly angled delivery, getting a faint edge to Pant behind the stumps.
By lunch Australia had fought to 186 for six, still needing a further 137 runs for victory, with Paine not out 40 and Pat Cummins on five.
But in the second over after they resumed Paine top-edged a pull shot from Bumrah and Pant easily took a catch.
Cummins, who survived two big reviews within four balls, with the technology both times going in his favour, showed gritty application with Mitchell Starc in a 41-run eighth wicket stand.
And when the target dropped below 100, the crowd dared to dream before Starc fell to Shami for 28. It brought Nathan Lyon to the crease and he got the pulses racing with a quick 38 to set up a tense finale, before Hazlewood departed to end the match.