Mohali: At 4:39 on Monday afternoon, with 16 deliveries left in the Test, MS Dhoni swiveled to pull Mitchell Starc for the boundary that put an end to an agonizing last 35 minutes of play in which India lost two wickets in pursuit of a target of 133.
That four signaled another comprehensive win over Australia, which meant Dhoni's team had reclaimed the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after the 4-0 whitewash last year and also won three matches in row during the same series for the first time since 1994. Set a target of 133 after bowling Australia out for 233 during the afternoon session, the home team lost four wickets en route to a six-wicket win - the first time in 86 Test matches dating back to 1947 that a 3-0 victory margin was attained over Australia. Such was India's dominance in Mohali that the washed out first day was made to look inconsequential.
Starc's dismissal in the second session meant India had 133 to chase in approximately two-and-a-half hours. With Shikhar Dhawan nursing a finger injury, they opened with Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara. The pair put on 42 in 38 deliveries before Vijay (26) was stumped off Xavier Doherty with India needing 91 more. Pujara (28) followed soon after, lbw to Nathan Lyon, and India entered the final hour of play needing 45 runs in 15 overs.
It seemed a simple equation and Virat Kohli put on 33 with Sachin Tendulkar before chipping a catch to short midwicket for 34. With 28 required in eight overs, MS Dhoni oddly ate up 24 balls for six runs to make it 22 from five, after which India were jolted by Tendulkar's run out for 21 off 23 balls; a misjudgment from the batsman saw him stop and turn back, but David Warner's under-arm throw hit the stumps.
Any further nerves were eased, however, as Ravindra Jadeja strode out and thumped two aerial boundaries down the ground off Peter Siddle. Then Dhoni arose from his slumber to hammer Starc for three consecutive fours and sent the Mohali fans into jubilation.
The equation for India was straightforward when played started: take seven wickets. The first came in the seventh over of the day, when Pragyan Ojha drew an edge off the bat of nightwatchman Lyon (18) which Dhoni snapped up. The first hour was sedate, with Australia adding 42 runs for the loss of Lyon. But then they lost four wickets for 26, starting with the biggest of them all.
Michael Clarke, battling a stiff back, began with two fours off Ojha as India's lead was erased but looked hampered by his discomfort and made it to 18 before he got an inside edge on a flick to Jadeja which was taken at short leg. It was the fifth time in six innings on tour that Jadeja had got Clarke's number.
Clarke's dismissal left Australia effectively 28 for 4, and the rot was setting in. Phillip Hughes was cut off on 69 with a harsh call from umpire Aleem Dar, who reckoned Hughes was hit in line by R Ashwin though replays showed the impact was outside leg stump and was missing its mark. There was nothing doubtful about the next dismissal, however, as Jadeja flung himself to his left to pluck an excellent return catch off Moises Henriques. Ojha then bowled Siddle to collect his second, but Brad Haddin and Starc resisted for 12 overs going into the lunch interval.
Ashwin struck Haddin plumb in front with a carom ball in the fifth over after lunch, but India had to work for the final wicket. For the second time in the match it was Australia's No. 9 Starc who thwarted India with the bat, his 35 dominating an 11th-wicket alliance of 44 in 18.1 overs which ate away at time. The breakthrough eventually came when Ashwin held a one-handed catch at backward short leg off Starc, to give Jadeja another three-wicket haul. Doherty contributed a career-best 18 off 56 balls to that stubborn tail-end resistance that spanned 109 deliveries.
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