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While Australia played anchor to draw with India in Ahmedabad in the final Test of the 2023 Border-Gavaskar Trophy, New Zealand won a last-ball thriller against Sri Lanka in Christchurch. New Zealand's two-wicket win helped India secure their second consecutive Test World Cup final and from then on, you could feel the two teams engaged in high-octane cricket just passing through in Ahmedabad over the past month.
Over four weeks of intense Test cricket has brought India and Australia to the final of the series, with the hosts hoping to finish 3-1. But that didn't happen thanks to a pitch that didn't help the bowlers and the determined spirits of the Australian batsmen much. A 3-1 win for India in BGT 2023 would remove any other result from the equation and put them into the WTC finals; however, it was just as well for India that Kane Williamson played one of the best Test innings in recent times to deny Sri Lanka a shot. Ahmedabad offered the best pitch of the series between India and Australia, and it produced some attritional cricket. India won in Nagpur and Delhi to take a 2-0 lead on pitches that drew sharp criticism from the Australian media. Why? That was anyone's guess.
Rohit Sharma scored a classy hundred in the first Test, and Axar Patel was the best batsman in the first half of the series. Indore provided a furious turner, but India were beaten at their own game. Although Rohit Sharma said the hosts were only playing to their best, the last pitch of the series proved to be a boon for the batsmen after three frenetic matches in which the spinners dominated with vicious turn and uneven bounce. It was an emphatic fightback from Australia under the shrewd leadership of Steve Smith. After winning in Indore, they posted a daunting 480 and then kept the hosts at bay for long periods of the Indian innings. Smith often wrapped the leg and his bowlers responded with solid lines, hardly allowing the Indian batsmen to get away in the game on a flat surface.
Virat Kohli's brilliance, Shubman Gill's guts, Cheteshwar Pujara's patience and Axar Patel's staying power with the bat eventually helped India take a healthy lead, but by then you could tell there would be no winners in the Test. The pitch didn't deteriorate as expected on the final day of a Test match in Asia, and all the Aussies had to do was block and survive in less demanding conditions.
R Ashwin, easily the man of the match, toiled brilliantly but was only rewarded with the wicket of Matthew Kuhnemann in the second innings after finishing 6 for 91 in the first. Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne were at the crease together when Australia won by 9 wickets in Indore last week and in Ahmedabad, the duo joined forces, well aware that Usman Khawaja, the leading run-scorer of the series, was unavailable to bat after injuring his knee in a valiant effort on the field on Sunday. Australia's decision to drop Travis Head for the first Test in Nagpur has stirred controversy and raised a number of questions. After batting lightly in the series opener, Head was eventually brought back into the playing eleven, but he had not passed 50 in 5 innings before Monday.
On a benign pitch with tiring bowlers, Head was in the running for a hundred but was beaten by an Axar Patel delivery that pitched into the rough outside the off stump. A knocked down Head had to walk 90. Axar Patel could also have had Steve Smith a few minutes later, but KS Bharat dropped a big deviation with the bat and Australia went to tea comfortably at 158 for 2. The players came in for the final over of the series and dragged the game for about 40 minutes before shaking hands, ties.
Questions were raised after India's batting capitulation in Indore, but their batsmen made quick amends in better conditions in Ahmedabad. Virat Kohli hasn't scored a Test hundred since November 2019—here he dug in and played down all the risks to reach his career-best score against Australia. Kohli was in sight of a double hundred, but Shreyas Iyer was out injured, R Ashwin played a poor shot and after Umesh Yadav's run out, the Indian batting maestro didn't trust Mohammed Shami much to bat. However, that 186 will forever go down in the annals of cricket as one of Virat Kohli's best tests, never mind the double hundred.
Australia's chances of winning were ended by India before the third innings. Australia ended India's hopes of victory with some gutsy batting on the final day. A draw was always in the cards, but what couldn't be denied was a fourth series win for India and their continued hold on the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Australia last won the series against India in 2014-15 and India have won since 2017, 2018-19, 2020-21 and 2023.
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