India complete Australia series win to set up World Test Championship final showdown

Rohit Sharma's team to face Aussies again at The Oval in June

India's players pose with the Border Gavaskar Trophy after winning the series 2-1 at the end of the Ahmedabad Test against Australia. AFP
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India booked their spot in the World Test Championship (WTC) final for the second straight occasion after drawing the fourth Test against Australia in Ahmedabad, and with generous help from Kane Williamson and New Zealand.

Rohit Sharma's team needed to win the Border Gavaskar Trophy (BGT) by a margin of two Tests to qualify for the showpiece event on their own. But as the Ahmedabad Test went on, it became clear a result was unlikely and India could only realistically hope to complete a 2-1 win, which they did at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Monday.

Australia declared their second innings on 175-2 on the fifth day, ensuring a draw and handing India their fourth successive BGT series win. But by that time, India had already qualified for the WTC final after New Zealand defeated Sri Lanka off the final ball of the Christchurch Test to knock the South Asian side out of contention for the title match at The Oval in June.

Australia opener Travis Head (90) and Marnus Labuschagne (63 not out) thwarted India's push for a victory on the final day with a stand of 139 after nightwatchman Matthew Kuhnemann fell early for six.

Head completed a successful series after being left out of the first Test but missed out on his century after being bowled by Axar Patel.

However, the match belonged to India's star batsman Virat Kohli, who hit a masterful 186 on day four to register his first Test century since November 2019.

Australia's Marnus Labuschagne, left, and Travis Head starred in a century stand on Monday. Reuters

Young opener Shubman Gill also scored a century while Usman Khawaja and all-rounder Cameron Green reached three figures for the visitors in a Test dominated by batsmen – unlike the first three Tests.

Australia had confirmed their qualification for the final after winning the third Test in Indore by nine wickets. India had earlier won the first two Tests – in Nagpur by an innings and 132 runs, and in Delhi by six wickets – to retain the trophy.

Both captains said the Delhi Test was the turning point in the series. the Aussies managed 263 in the first innings on a treacherous pitch before reducing India to 139-7.

From there, India's lower order spinners took the total to within one run of Australia's score. Then, the Aussies looked good to set a challenging total but collapsed from 85-2 to 113 all out to hand India the Test, and the series.

"It was fantastic right from the word go," India captain Rohit said at the presentation ceremony.

"You saw how exciting it was. In all the Test matches that we played, there was something in it for every one. After playing good cricket for 40-45 days, we stand here with the result, which we are quite happy with."

"I think the Delhi Test was something I'm really proud of because we were very much behind the game and to comeback from the situation that we did shows a lot of character and a lot of fight."

His Australian counterpart Steve Smith was proud of the fightback shown by the team in the final two Tests, and said if his batsmen had shown a little more application in Delhi, the series result could have been different.

"It was a really well fought series. I think we started to play a lot better as the series went on," Smith, standing-in for Pat Cummins, said.

"That hour of madness in Delhi really cost us in that game. But I think coming back from that in Indore we fought back really nicely and this game as well."

Indian spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who claimed a combined 47 wickets, shared the player-of-the-series award. India will face Australia again in the WTC final at The Oval in London from June 7-11 after losing the inaugural title match to New Zealand in 2021.

Updated: March 13, 2023, 12:43 PM