When Australia bounced back to level the 4-match series at 1-1 in Perth, the Boxing Day Test match at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground became an all important affair. A win here for either team would have given them an unassailable 2-1 lead in the series and it was Virat Kohli’s men who came out on top.
India’s 137 run victory in Melbourne helped them to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy irrespective of what happens next in Sydney. This was also India’s 150th Test win, 28 of those coming against the Aussies, their most against any team. In addition, it was only the second instance of an Asian side winning more than 1 Test in a series ‘down under’. Interestingly, the first team to do so was also India, in 1977-78.
What a win!! Proud to be part of this unit . Onto Sydney now. Jai hind 🇮🇳🇮🇳🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/DsW8WXRMGj
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) December 30, 2018
The biggest plus for the subcontinent giants, not only in this series but for the entire year has been their pacers. Fast bowlers hunt in pairs, and the current Indian side has a whole pack. It was not long ago that India were criticised for not having a quality seam attack but the trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami have put those talks to rest. With a combined 133 wickets in 2018, the 3 have now become the most successful pace trio in Tests in a calendar year, breaking a 34 year old record. Clearly Indian pacers are a force to reckon with. They breathed fire and no batsman coming their way was spared. Amongst the three, Jasprit Bumrah has been the most lethal. He announced his arrival in Test cricket with a wicket of AB de Villiers in South Africa and ended the year as the leading Test wicket taker for India in 2018 with 48 scalps. He also picked up a total of 9 wickets in the Melbourne Test, which is the most by an Indian pacer in a single Test in Australia.
Congrats to the @BCCI @imVkohli & the Indian team for valuing test cricket & for making it your number 1 priority. We love the entertainment of what white ball cricket brings – but the ultimate challenge as a player is test cricket-the best team always wins a 5 day game Bravo 👏🏻
— Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne) December 30, 2018
Another positive from the 3rd test for India was Mayank Agarwal. KL Rahul and Murali Vijay looked clueless against the Aussie bowlers and with Prithvi Shaw having been ruled out of the series due to an ankle injury, India’s opening woes seemed never ending. But then Mayank Agarwal walked into the Test side. His debut was long due and the 27 year old grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Mayank proved that he belonged on the International stage with a gritty 72 and a fighting 42 in the 2 innings of the Melbourne Test. Mayank surely has proved to be the answer to India’s opening conundrum.
— BCCI (@BCCI) December 30, 2018
Virat Kohli and company’s next challenge is Sydney from January 3-7, 2019. Though India cannot lose the Test series now, and Australia can draw 2-2 at most, India won’t let their guard down. Virat Kohli now has a golden opportunity to go where no other Asian captain has gone before: to win a Test series down under. And looking at how things have panned out so far, don’t be surprised if India script history and tame the kangaroos in their own backyard!
Written by: Yash Chawla. Yash is former Anchor of NDTV with over 9 years of experience as a sports journalist.