India fought their way back from a precarious position to win the Bengaluru Test and draw level the four-match series 1-1 on Tuesday. India-Australia Test series in the new millennium have mostly been close affairs and this one promises to be the same. Though, the general perception was that Steve Smith's men will be ambushed by Virat Kohli and Co. at home, the tourists surprised one and all by outplaying the hosts on a dust bowl in the series opener in Pune.
Read also: Former captains call on ICC to probe DRS row involving Smith
The trend continued when the Indians had no clue to Nathan Lyon's off-spinners on the opening day at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium and were bowled out for a below-par score of 189. The Indians ensured that the Aussies did not run away with the game as they gave away only 190 runs and claimed six important wickets on the second day. The key for India was not to concede a huge first innings lead and stay in the match. They did just that on the third morning, with Ravindra Jadeja cleaning up the tail and limiting the deficit to 87. It has to be said that the left-arm spinner was clearly underbowled by Kohli on the second day and it was his 6/63 which made up for an off-color R. Ashwin in the first essay.
India learnt the lesson from their first innings debacle and showed much more intent second time around. Opener K.L. Rahul, who scored a fine 90 in the first innings, laid the foundation with a superb 51 and the home hero was halted only by the brilliance of Smith in first slip.
Though Kohli failed for the fourth successive time in the series and the move to promote Jadeja up the order backfired, Cheteshwar Pujara found an able ally in Ajinkya Rahane and their 118-run stand for the fifth wicket was the defining phase of the game. Though, the Aussies made the second new ball count and triggered an Indian collapse on the fourth morning, the target of 188 was always going to be challenging on an uneven track.
Opener David Warner and Smith were the key to Australia's hopes. Unlike the first innings when they were willing to apply themselves and fight it out, Australia resorted to aggressive methods in a ploy to unsettle the Indian bowlers. But once Ashwin trapped Warner in front of the wicket and pacer Umesh Yadav accounted for Smith with a ball which barely bounced, the Aussies had no clue to Ashwin's variations and Jadeja's accuracy.
Ashwin, who ended up with figures of 6/41, registered his 25th five-for and went past Bishan Singh Bedi as the fifth highest wicket-taker for India in Tests. The offie will be the first to admit that both him and the team benefited from Jadeja's steady and tight spell at the other end.
The 75-run victory margin was a flattering one even for Kohli as he admitted later. It was an acrimonious game in which both Kohli and Smith were at the center of it with their antics.
Smith's attempt to seek the help of the dressing room in whether to go for the review once he was given out lbw was tough to explain and Kohli was quick to make his point when he accused the Australians of all but cheating in his post-match press conference.
After an exhilarating Test, the series is in the balance and the two games at new Test venues - Ranchi and Dharamsala - will decide where the Border-Gavaskar Trophy will head for.
If the first two Tests are any indication, toss holds the key. One can only hope that the curators would prepare a surface in which both the batsmen and bowlers have an equal chance to showcase their skills.