The fourth Test match in Sydney was heading for a draw, it looked inevitable with India going into Tea with eight wickets in hand. But that unbelievably frustrating ability of India to lose wickets in a heap in Test matches just refuses to go away, irrespective of the captain or the team.
From a comfortable "maybe we can even go on and win this if we treat it like a small limited-overs game"178 for two in 60.3 overs India were chopped down all the way to 217 for seven in 78.2 overs, before Ajinkya Rahane (38, 88b, 5x4) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (20, 30b, 3x4), held on to force a second straight draw as India finished on 252 for seven in 89.5 overs, 97 runs short of the target.
The match in Melbourne ended with four wickets intact for India, but this time it was just that wee bit more nervy – when it really should not have been – before that wicket-train ran out of track for Australia.
The collapse began early in the final session, with Murali Vijay, looking to take the game to Australia, with that minute chance of a victory, edging one to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin off Josh Hazlewood (17-7-31-2). Vijay (80, 165b, 7x4, 2x6) had looked largely untroubled until then and was well on course for another hundred, only for that extra aggressive mood to change it all.
From there it was down to Kohli (46, 95b, 3x4), who put on 74 in a little under 23 overs with Vijay, but captain marvel also fell soon after, playing an airy shot to Mitchell Starc (19-7-36-2) and finding the edge through to slips.
Starc had his tail up after the Kohli wicket and the left-arm paceman reminded Suresh Raina what Test cricket is all about with a ripper of a welcome, and three balls were all it took to send the left-hander packing.
Raina (0, 3b) was out first ball in the first innings, and a pair looked inevitable as he struggled to cope under the pressure with Starc hitting his mark by spearing in a quick delivery onto the stumps which struck the India batsman's pads plumb in front.
Wriddhiman Saha had shown he can hang around in the first innings, but 11 balls later he was gone as Nathan Lyon (30.5-5-110-2) got that ball to behave strangely, with the browning red cherry rolling along the ground and striking Saha on the pads in front of the stumps.
R Ashwin (1, 22b) was another of the Indian batsmen who played brilliant in the previous innings, but again, it was a quick return to the pavilion for the all-rounder with Richard Kettleborough making it three straight lbw dismissals by raising his finger to a Hazlewood delivery which might have clipped leg stump, but was more likely to miss it.
Rahane had to be the man to save India, and the Mumbaikar farmed the strike quite well, even if he had an able batsman at the other end in Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The duo hung around together for 69 deliveries – no Steven Smith did not call off play four overs prior to the match, just one ball -- seeing through the new ball as well, to force the draw.
Australia, despite the final two matches ending in draws, took the series 2-0 and with it the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Earlier, India would have gone into Day 5 thinking they have the batsmen to chase down 349 on a last day wicket, but the Australia bowlers, yet again, showed what disciplined bowling means, pretty much shutting that particular result out after a gripping, fascinating "where are the runs going to come from" first couple of sessions on Day 5 of the fourth Test in Sydney.
Australia, expectedly, declared overnight, which meant their second innings score of 251/6 at stumps on Day 4 was all she wrote. That also meant a target of 349 to chase down for India in 90 overs, and while that was theoretically possible, especially with the strokemakers India have in their side, the bowling just did not allow it, with the Aussies keeping it nice and tight in the first session.
While R Ashwin toiled away at one end, creating pressure with wickets and outstanding bowling on Day 4, India's fast bowlers at the other end gifted away runs with such glee that even Christmas presents would have paled in comparison.
It was the exact opposite for Australia, with Ryan Harris, Starc and Hazlewood tying one end up wonderfully well to allow Lyon to do his bit on the turning, wearing wicket at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
India, actually, took Lyon on early on, with the off-spinner going at over six runs an over after his first four overs, but once that first wicket – of KL Rahul -- came in, everything changed and that away victory was marked down to extremely improbable as India went into Lunch on 73/1 in 29 overs.
With the win out of sight, the second session was all about survival, and Vijay (71, 156b, 5x4, 2x6) did that wonderfully well, with Kohli (25, 56b, 2x4) showing the assurance and talent he has shown all series, by comfortably overcoming the loss of Rohit Sharma (39, 90b, 2x4, 2x6) in the second session, to take India to 160 for two in 57 overs at Tea – still 189 runs away from the target3.
KL Rahul (16, 40b, 3x4), the centurion from the first innings, was the one to go in the morning, with Lyon getting that glove/bat-pad after the right-hander came down the track, but failed to get to the pitch of the ball and only managed to lob a catch up to David Warner at backward short leg.
Rahul's wicket was followed by some brilliant bowling by Australia, with no runs being scored off 39 balls, including the one that sent Rahul off, as India were stuck on 48/1. Hazlewood, at the other end, bowled brilliantly, including four straight maiden overs – it took 28 balls for the Indian batsmen to score the first run off him -- and there were five consecutive maidens in all in that period.
What that period of play meant was India's hopes of making a fight of it by looking to chase down the total pretty much vanished and that pressure just kept building, with Vijay and Rohit, in particular, not looking too comfortable.
There were a few attacking shots to take the pressure off, but more often than not there were those ooh and aah moments, which only kept Australia coming at India with an ever greater intensity.
Vijay and Rohit batted on after Lunch reasonably comfortably, before that penchant to throw away his wicket came back to haunt Rohit again. A lazy – and this was not lazy elegance – throw of the bat away from his body while trying to dab the ball to third man off the bowling of Shane Watson only resulted in an outside edge and one of the catch of the season contenders from Steven Smith, who dived to his right to complete a one-handed stunner.
India were on 104 for two in 38 overs at that point, but Australia knew the game would only be even remotely theirs if they dismissed the skipper Kohli.
That has proved to be quite difficult over the series and without too much trouble, Kohli and Vijay took their team to Tea, with the latter even unfurling a few smashing shots to take Lyon to the cleaners and negate that "oh the ball is turning and Lyon is the man to take the wicket" pressure.
Indeed, it was the faster bowlers for Australia who looked more threatening with Harris and Hazlewood in particular troubling the batsmen with some reverse-swing. Vijay was a little lucky not to be given out lbw off Hazlewood a little after Rohit's wicket, but a little luck was definitely due for the opener after digging in and playing another great Test match innings under pressure, an innings which eventually proved to be the difference between a draw and a defeat.