Pant smashes India to series win for the ages

Pant's stellar innings was only one of a slew of heroic efforts by the Indian side

  
India celebrates winning on day five of the fourth test match between Australia and India at the Gabba in Brisbane, Australia, January 19, 2021. AAP Image/Darren England via REUTERS

India celebrates winning on day five of the fourth test match between Australia and India at the Gabba in Brisbane, Australia, January 19, 2021. AAP Image/Darren England via REUTERS

Rishabh Pant unleashed a Twenty20-style batting assault to blast India to an incredible three-wicket win in the fourth test decider on Tuesday as Ajinkya Rahane's injury-ravaged tourists humbled Australia with a 2-1 series triumph.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Pant timed his innings to perfection in a 138-ball 89 as India galloped to a record 328-run chase at the Gabba, becoming the first team since the West Indies in 1988 to beat Australia at their Brisbane stronghold.

With regular captain Virat Kohli savouring fatherhood back home, India mowed down 145 runs after tea to claim a win against all odds when Pant smashed Josh Hazlewood to the long-off fence for four with 18 balls to spare.

"This is one of the biggest moments of my life now, and I'm happy that all the support staff and all my team mates supported me even when I wasn't playing," lefthander Pant said after being named Man of the Match.

"It's been a dream series.

"It was a fifth-day pitch and the ball was turning a bit. I thought I have to be disciplined with my shot selection."

Pant's stellar innings was only one of a slew of heroic efforts by the Indian side, with opener Subman Gill (91) and a battered Cheteshwar Pujara (56) helping them mow down the total with defiant half-centuries.

Without a single first-choice bowler in Brisbane, India retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, two years after beating Australia in the 2018-19 series Down Under, and also shot to the top of the World Test Championship.

This victory, however, was a greater achievement by far as the previous series saw Australia deprived of top batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner due to a ball-tampering scandal.

FAR CRY FROM ADELAIDE

The jubilant scenes at the Gabba were also a far cry from the Adelaide opener when India were bowled out for 36 and suffered a thrashing in three days.

Yet they rallied superbly to win in Melbourne and held Australia to a brave draw in the third test in Sydney.

Australia battled hard to claim late wickets on day five in Brisbane but questions will be asked about Tim Paine's captaincy, with the home side proving incapable of bowling India out on the fifth day for a second successive test.

"Absolutely disappointed," said Paine, who was jeered by sections of the crowd at the post-match presentation.

"We came here to win the test and the series, it's been a bit of a trend that we were found wanting in the key moments and completely outplayed by a tough Indian side that fully deserves the win."

Rahane will be the toast of India, however, and now holds an unbeaten record of four wins in five tests.

"It really means a lot to us. I don't know how to describe this victory. I'm just proud of all the boys," said Rahane.

"After Adelaide we didn't discuss about what happened, we just wanted to play our game, show good attitude, show good character on the field.

"Credit to Pujara, the way he handled the pressure was magnificent, and Rishabh was brilliant in the end."

Australia paceman Pat Cummins was named Player of the Series in a losing cause after taking 21 wickets.

Yet he and Australia's vaunted attack featuring Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon will also be under scrutiny after failing on home pitches.

"Good hard day of test cricket today, I thought Rishabh and the whole Indian side played fantastically, took the game on and deserved the win," said Cummins.

"I would have liked the cracks to play a few more tricks, but it was a pretty good wicket."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford) ((ian.ransom@thomsonreuters.com; +61 3 9286 1447;))

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