No Virat Kohli, no Rohit Sharma, no Ishant Sharma, no Mohammad Shami and the humiliation of getting bundled out for 36 in the second innings of the first Test notwithstanding, Team India under stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane scripted a majestic comeback in the Test series against Australia as they won the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground by eight wickets on Tuesday.
Chasing 70 for a win, it was only poetic justice that Rahane hit the winning run of Nathan Lyon as the series stands 1-1 with two Tests remaining. The win not only brings India right back in the series, but also a step closer to the final of the World Test Championship.
While no word is enough to describe the heroics of skipper Rahane, one man who deserves special praise is opener Shubman Gill. Brought into the team after first-choice opener Prithvi Shaw failed in the opening game, Gill showed application in both essays and was unbeaten with skipper Rahane (27) when India crossed the line. His unbeaten 35 off 36 balls will stand India in good stead with Rohit set to start the third game.
Mayank Agarwal's poor show continued as he once again failed to grab the opportunity and was dismissed for just 5 as India chased 70 for a win on the fourth afternoon. Cheteshwar Pujara also failed to rise to the occasion and was dismissed for just 3 by Cummins. But that is a worry the team management will look into ahead of the next game. For now, it is one inspired show by the Indian boys when critics in Australia had called it a 4-0 series win after the loss in Adelaide.
Standing in, Rahane ensured he got counted and as Sunil Gavaskar rightly mentioned, his 12th Test century was one of the most important ones in the history of Indian cricket because a sizeable lead was must to ensure that Indian bowlers don't see their first-innings show go in vain.
While Rahane still feels his century at the Lord's is his best showing, the Indian bowlers who saw the team lose even after they bowled Australia out cheaply in the opening game would beg to differ.
Coming back to the fourth day's play, riding on the back of the confidence from day three, India first dismissed Australia for 200 and then came back to chase the target of 70 in just 15.5 overs. If one session had cost India the first Test, it was again a session -- which Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja weathered on day two - that saw India bag the second game.
However, the win wasn't as easy as it shows on paper. Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc gave Australia the early wickets to ensure the win won't be a cakewalk for the visitors.Starc dismissed Mayank while Cummins sent Pujara back as a small target started looking a little bigger. However, some assured strokeplay from Gill and Rahane calmed the nerves of India's dressing room.
Earlier in the day, Mohammad Siraj struck twice while Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin picked a wicket each in the first session as Australia folded for 200. Having weathered the storm in the first hour of play, it was Bumrah's bouncer that ended Cummins' stint at the crease after India took the new ball.
If Bumrah provided India the breakthrough, it was Siraj's twin strike with the bouncers which ensured India maintain the advantage in the game. The first session was extended after Australia lost their ninth wicket and Starc ensured India toiled hard for the final blood.
Brief Scores: Australia 195 and 200; India 326 and 70/2 (Shubman Gill 35*, Ajinkya Rahane 27*; Mitchell Starc 1-20, Pat Cummins 1-22)