Oh what a feeling, a magical Test triumph

By Kersi Meher-Homji

I have witnessed many Test victories in my 60 years of match reporting, but the Brisbane see-sawing Test which ended yesterday when India won in the final over as the greatest. I am tempted to write, grammatically incorrect but emotionally accurate, “greatestest”!

Call it magical, marvelous or magnificent, it was fantastic. I am tempted to call it Pantastic after Man of the Match Rishbah Pant changed gears from “play for a draw” to “go whambambang for an incredible win” on the final pulsating day.

After the incredible triumph last evening I sang aloud the old Cliff Richards song: “Congratulations and jubilations, I am as happy as I can be” in ecstasy. I imagined that all cricket-loving Indians joined me in chorus! I was interrupted in my unmelodious singing by many phone calls saying, “Mubarak, Sabash and congratulations” and I felt as if I was both Man of the Match and Man of the Series!

I was so relieved when I woke up this morning and realised that India’s win in the Brisbane Test last evening was real and not a dream or a fairy tale!

As you saw the final day of the Test, some of you even taping it, to watch it not only next week but also “bees saal baad” [after twenty years], I will be giving only the highlights of the dramatic series.

It appeared all doom and gloom on December 19 when India was shot out for 36 in the second innings of the Adelaide Test and lost by 8 wickets on the third day. It appeared even gloomier when Virat Kohli left for India to be next to his pregnant wife.

But the Boxing Day Melbourne Test under the new leader Ajinkya Rahane brought India fresh hopes with a convincing victory, the new skipper hitting a century. The series was now one-all with two Tests to go.

India was all but beaten in the Sydney Test when hard as rock Cheteshwar Pujara was dismissed for 77. India was 5 for 272 then and in big trouble as the flamboyant Ravindra Jadeja was injured with a dislocated finger.

But then entered the heroic batsmen Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin. When batting Vihari pulled his hamstring and Ashwin had severe back pain. They could barely walk let alone run but stayed unbeaten facing 289 deliveries from pace bowlers Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazelwood and world-class spinner Nathan Lyon.

Vihari and Ashwin added 62 gallant runs for the unbroken sixth wicket to salvage a draw which had appeared lost. The series was now tied one-all.

In the first innings India was in trouble at 6 for 186 chasing Australia’s 369 but was saved by a heroic face-saving seventh wicket partnership of 123 between debutant Washington Sundar (62 runs) and Shardul Thakur (67) playing his second Test.

As India was holding the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, she had to only draw the final Test in Brisbane to retain the Trophy. Came the final day of the amazing Test and India (0 for 4 overnight) needed 324 more runs for a victory in about 97 overs.

As the highest successful run chase in a Brisbane Test was Australia’s 7 for 236 against the West Indies in 1951, an Indian win looked like a pipe dream to me and to other critics.

India looked like saving the Test to win the series with a stylish innings by opener Shubman Gill (91 runs with 8 fours and 2 sixes) and courageous Cheteshwas Pujara (56 with 7 fours and 11 hits to his body). But Man of the Match Pant was not satisfied with just a draw.

He wanted to win and he went for it with wham, vigour and venom. He hit a dare devil 89 not out with 9 fours and a six and India won the Test by 3 wickets and the series 2-1 to retain the covet Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

A magical win indeed. Today’s The Sydney Morning Herald headlined India’s victory: India takes a series for the ages and INDIAN STUNNER on front and back pages.

India is now ranked joint first in Test ratings, along with New Zealand.

Interesting trivia at Gabba, Brisbane:

India’s never-say-never batsman Cheteshwar Pujara scored his first six runs off 66 balls, eight runs off 88 balls and 26 off 126 balls. He hit seven fours in his 56, received 11 painful body blows but carried on heroically.

At 5.55 pm on the fifth day in Brisbane, Australia needed 5 wickets for a victory and India 55 runs.

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