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Rahul, Rahane guide India to series win against Australia

Source: PTI
March 28, 2017 12:50 IST
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Team India

IMAGE: The Indian team celebrates after winning the series 2-1. Photograph: BCCI

A clinical India regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, beating Australia by eight wickets in the deciding fourth Test in Dharamsala on Tuesday to clinch one of the most controversial and hard-fought bilateral contests in recent times.

It was World No. 1 India's seventh Test series win in a row -- continuing the dominance that started in 2015 with victories against Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand, England and Bangladesh.

Needing 87 runs on the fourth day to reach a modest victory target of 106, opener Lokesh Rahul (51 not out) dominated from the start with a flurry of boundaries and finished with six half-centuries in the series, as India cruised to an easy victory.

The match ended in just three days and a session, a reflection of India's distinct upperhand in the 2-1 triumph.

There were some hiccups when Murali Vijay (8) and Cheteshwar Pujara (0) were out in quick succession but stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane smashed a quickfire 38 off 27 balls to avoid any more dramas.

IMAGE: The Australian players after the Test match. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Rahane and Rahul added 60 runs for a third wicket partnership which took the team to victory in 23.5 overs.

Fittingly, Rahul finished the match with three runs which also helped him complete his fifty, his fifth in a row in the series. Rahul's innings of 76 balls had nine fours while Rahane hit four boundaries and two huge sixes of Pat Cummins.

It brought the curtains down on a very productive home season in which India won 10 out of the 13 Test matches with two draws and the only defeat coming on a Pune dust-bowl against Smith's side in the season-opener.

The victory was even more special as skipper and team's premier batsman Kohli was unavailable in the deciding contest.

A reticent Rahane, completely different in character from Kohli, marshalled his resources well in what could be termed as the best out of the 13 Test wins.

More so because the conditions were more Australian than Indian and the home team punted on rookie chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, risking a batsman less in the playing eleven.

KL Rahul

IMAGE: KL Rahul celebrates after winning the fourth Test in Dharamsala. Photograph: BCCI

Vijay started off nervously on Day 4 as he survived a few close LBW shouts but Rahul was solid as ever at the other end and kept the scoreboard moving.

A swept boundary off Steve O'Keefe set the tone for the day and an imperious pull shot off Hazlewood showed why Rahul is rated so highly.

Vijay was caught behind off Cummins before Pujara perished when he was run out after a misunderstanding with Rahul while going for a quick single.

After India were reduced to 46 for two, Rahane came in and showed uncharacteristic aggression, taking on the bowlers from word go.

Cummins was pulled and then slashed over the cover region for back to back sixes, leaving the entire Australian team stunned.

A paddle sweep off Lyon got him another four as India looked to charge towards the victory target.

Ajinkya Rahane

IMAGE: Ajinkya Rahane plays the sweep shot. Photograph: BCCI

Rahul stamped his authority as the most exciting Indian batsman of recent times with 393 runs at an average of 65.50.

"It was a fantastic series especially after the disappointment of the first Test," Pujara said at the end of the match.

"We probably wanted to win 3-1 but we are happy with 2-1. The way the fast bowlers bowled in the second innings was fabulous. We have been having good partnerships. I just told Rahul that we don't want to lose wickets in the first session on second day even if we didn't get runs.

"We knew if we didn't lose wickets, we could score big. The run rate was not that important. I would like to keep going if there were a few matches. I really enjoyed this home season, and hope to continue next season," Pujara added.

Rahul said that after the Pune Test, he curbed some of his natural instincts to go for expansive shots.

"After Pune, I knew I couldn't play my shots. It was a big restriction. I love to play my shots, dominate the spinners, but I had to play a different game. Pretty disappointed that I couldn't convert, but right now nothing else matters," an elated Rahul said.

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