Heads shine as Aussies keep their nerve to end India’s drought with a mighty win

Australia kept their cool in their tricky chase, winning their first match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series and beating India for the first time in six Tests.

Provisional opener Travis Head made short shrift in the morning session on day three of the third Test with a goal of 76 runs to beat India for the first time since they routed them for 36 in Adelaide in December 2020.

The nine-wicket win, which was their first Test victory in India since the Tour’s series opener in 2017, capped a remarkable turnaround for the Aussies, who were beaten in the opening two games in Nagpur and Delhi in three days.

It was only their second victory on Indian soil since they won the 2004 Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

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Australia have now also qualified for the final of the World Test Championship in June at The Oval where they will face India or Sri Lanka later this month depending on the results.

INDORE, INDIA - MARCH 3: Travis Head of Australia bats during day three of the third Test match in the series between India and Australia at Holkare Cricket Stadium on March 3, 2023 in Indore, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Travis Head bats at Holkare Cricket Stadium on day three. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Their win was all the more special for Steve Smith’s side as they went into the game without skipper Pat Cummins, who had recently returned to Australia after his mother Maria was placed in palliative care.

After sacking India on 109 and 163 after a frenzied gymnast and 197 in their first innings on the first two days, the Australians were big favorites early in Day 3 but suffered a heavy blow on the second ball of the day.

Veteran opener Usman Khawaja, who was Australia’s top scorer in the first innings with 60 points, fell behind after a vicious off-break from Ravichandran Ashwin captured his outside edge.

Marnus Labuschagne joined Head at the crease and was treated with some gameplay by Ashwin early in his innings when the Indian spinner threatened to throw off two strides, forcing the Queenslander to back away from his stance because he wasn’t sure what was going on.

Referee Joel Wilson eventually stepped in to get Labuschagne to surrender and when he did, Ashwin continued the mind games before returning to his full run-up.

But the tactics didn’t worry Labuschagne as Head played his signature attacking game, lifting the spinners across the infield and piercing the gaps with a series of stylish shots.

Ashwin was shaken by the state of the ball. He complained to the umpires about it several times and continued to express his frustration even after it was changed at the 10-over mark.

“Travis Head was a revelation here,” said former India coach Ravi Shastri in a comment, who slammed the Australian selectors for excluding the in-form left-hander from the first Test over previous battles on rotating pitches.

Head finished a run in less than half a century with 53 balls – proof he’s doing his best in Asia by batting at the top of the order after being promoted to the Open following David Warner’s departure from the Tour. – while Labuschagne took the winning streak in the 19th past his 28th.

Off-spinner Nathan Lyon went 8-64 on Thursday, bowling perfectly on a sharply twisting course at Indore to overwhelm the masters of spin on their own terms and set Australia’s win after second player Matt Kuhnemann went 5-16 in the first sacked innings.

Lyon was named Player of the Match for their 11-99 totals.

Nathan Lyons.

Nathan Lyons. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The Tourists’ win gave India only their third home defeat in 45 Tests in the past 10 years, including Australia’s win at Pune in 2017.

Australia’s hopes of winning the series are already dashed, but it would be a monumental effort if they could finish their tour of India 2-2.

The win also confirmed Australia’s place in the World Test Championship, to be held at The Oval in London in June.

It always looked like Australia would be in the WTC decider but could have missed it had they been papered over 4-0 in India and other results had gone against them.

India remain their likely opponents, with captain Rohit Sharma saying ahead of the third test the hosts could prepare a green field for game four in Ahmedabad if they win in Indore to prepare for the WTC Finals.

That green top looks like a long shot now as India are determined to hit back next week and win the series 3-1.

https://www.theroar.com.au/2023/03/03/hoodoo-gurus-head-shines-as-aussies-hold-their-nerve-to-end-indian-drought-with-thumping-win/ Heads shine as Aussies keep their nerve to end India's drought with a mighty win


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