A phenomenal final session saw Australia claim a 48-run victory over a gallant India on day 5 at Adelaide Oval, capping one of the most emotional and enthralling Tests of all time.
Whether through design or coincidence, the victorious hosts congregated beside the 408 painted on the field in honour of the late Phillip Hughes – whose memory and spirit had permeated the entire match – after off-spin hero Nathan Lyon took the last wicket of Ishant Sharma, his 12th of the match.
Michael Clarke gamely declared at the beginning of the last day, setting India a gettable target of 364. But the proactive decision looked set to pay triumphant dividends early when Mitchell Johnson had Shikhar Dhawan caught behind for nine and Cheteshwar Pujara met an identical fate off the bowling of Lyon, leaving India in trouble at 2/57.
Dhawan was desperately unlucky, with replays showing the ball clearly hitting only his shoulder on the way through to Brad Haddin.
That brought Virat Kohli to the crease, however, and the pugnacious stand-in skipper changed the course of the match along with gritty opener Murali Vijay.
The duo saw India through to 2/105 at lunch, and then 2/205 at tea – a heroic victory for the tourists became a very real possibility. Michael Clarke’s departure with a hamstring injury heaped more pressure on Australia, and in particular vice-captain Haddin.
Kohli picked up the pace as the final session began, overtaking Vijay’s score and bringing up his second century of the Test. In the following over, Vijay was out lbw to Lyon for 99 after 234 balls and more than five hours in the middle.
Five balls later, Lyon had Ajinkya Rahane caught in close by Chris Rogers for nought. Kohli kept the score moving at an impressive rate, before Lyon got rid of Rohit Sharma, caught by David Warner in another unfortunate call – the ball took no part of Sharma’s gloves or bat.
Wriddinham Saha signalled his intentions with an early six, but became Lyons’ fifth victim of the innings – and 10th of the match – when he was bowled after just 10 balls.
Despite their dwindling wicket stocks, Kohli’s presence had India very much in the frame at 6/304 with ample time to collect the remaining runs. But a rush of blood resulted in Mitchell Marsh taking a tricky chance near the boundary to dismiss the captain for 141 off 175 balls.
India’s remaining three wickets fell for 11 runs, completing an extraordinary final session collapse of eight wickets for 73 runs. Fittingly, Haddin stumped Ishant Sharma off Lyon’s bowling to wrap up proceedings and spark jubilant celebrations.
Stud of the day
Lyon was magnificent, producing a career-defining performance to win the match for Australia. Toiling all day for little reward, the wiry off-spinner ripped through the Indian batting order in an unforgettable final session to finish with figures of 7/152 from 34.1 overs.
Stud of the match
Despite centuries in each innings by Warner and Kohli, Lyon’s sterling effort under pressure meant there was no contest for man-of-the-match honours. His maiden 10-wicket haul – and eventual match figures of 12/286 – was a special achievement; under the circumstances, it was brilliant.
Vijay’s lbw dismissal opened the floodgates, but Marsh’s awkward-looking catch to send Kohli packing effectively ended India’s valiant charge.
The second Test starts at the Gabba on Wednesday, and both sides have their work cut out picking themselves up after the emotion, drama and physical drain of this Adelaide epic. India will be sweating on captain MS Dhoni’s return, but the courageous Clarke won’t be on the field in a massive blow to Australia’s batting strength and leadership. In a stunning bombshell, Clarke admitted he may never play for Australia again after this latest injury setback.
Kohli became just the 10th player in Test history to score a century in each innings for a losing side, and the sixth overseas batsman to achieve the feat in Australia. It was also the fourth-highest fourth innings score by an Indian batsman, and sixth-highest fourth innings score by a batsman in Australia.
The Test was a glorious tribute to Phillip Hughes, his tragic passing inspiring a string of brilliant individual performances and poignant moments. The Australian team later returned to the field to belt out the team song while standing on the painted 408 in one last stirring homage.