MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — India completed a stunning form reversal by claiming an eight-wicket win over Australia on the fourth day of the second cricket test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Tuesday.
India’s comprehensive victory, led by stand-in skipper and man of the match Ajinkya Rahane, levels the four-match series at 1-1.
The touring team’s remarkable win comes after India scored a national-record low total of 36 in an eight-wicket loss in the first test in Adelaide just over a week ago.
Chasing 70 to win on Tuesday after bowling Australia out for 200 in its second innings, India comfortably reached 70-2 off 15.5 overs before the tea break.
Leading the side in the absence of star batsman and captain Virat Kohli, who has returned home to India to be with his wife for the birth of their first child, Rahane’s calmness and tactical skills helped India stage a form reversal that left coach Ravi Shastri in awe of his side.
“This will go down in the annals of world cricket as one of the great comebacks in the history of the game,” Shastri said. “We were blown away in the second innings in one hour (scoring 36 in Adelaide). But you get up and fight, which we did in this second test match.
“The boys deserve all the credit for the character issue, real character.”
Shastri described Rahane, who scored 112 and 27 not out and steered the side superbly in the field, as “a very shrewd leader”.
“His calm composure out there in the middle helped the bowlers as well. He has a calming influence,” Shastri said. “Both are good readers on the game. Virat (Kohli) is very passionate. Virat is more in your face.”
Rahane fittingly hit the winning run for India, while opener Shubman Gill completed a fine debut with scores of 45 and 35 not out.
India’s pace bowler Mohammed Siraj led his side off the field at lunch after taking 2-40 and 3-37 on debut, including claiming two of the four wickets to fall in Tuesday’s opening session.
“The way everyone played was really magnificent. Character and attitude were really important going into this test match,” Rahane said. “I want to give credit to the debutants. Shubman batted really well. He showed that intent, that he can play shots at this level.”
Shastri and Rahane also praised Siraj’s disciplined effort with the ball, especially after fellow pace bowler Umesh Yadav broke down during Australia’s second innings with a calf strain.
Resuming on Tuesday on 133-6, Pat Cummins (22) and Cameron Green added another 23 before Cummins fended a bouncer from Jasprit Bumrah to second slip. They shared a seventh-wicket stand of 57.
Second-gamer Green, 21, scored a stylish 45.
Australia has failed to post an innings total of over 200 in the first two tests.
“We played pretty poor cricket, pretty sloppy cricket,” Australia’s captain Tim Paine said. “As a batting group, we are very disappointed about what we have put up in the first two test matches.
“Dropping a number of catches probably didn’t help. It was a bit of a sloppy performance in the field and we didn’t score enough runs again.”
Opener David Warner is likely to return for the third test if he overcomes a groin strain.
“David looks in really good from what I’ve seen. He has been training this week in the nets,” Paine said. “The early signs with him are very good for the third test.”
The third test will be played in Sydney beginning Jan. 7, Cricket Australia confirmed late Tuesday. There had been speculation the match would also be played in Melbourne due to a new coronavirus outbreak in Sydney.
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