Harbhajan Singh took four wickets as India completed a 172-run victory over Australia in the final Test in Nagpur to seal a 2-0 victory in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Singh (4-64) and Amit Mishra (3-27) destroyed the Australian battling line-up as the tourists collapsed from 111-2 at lunch to 209 all out.
Matthew Hayden produced a typically belligerent 77, and Cameron White made a valiant 26 not out, but India’s spinners made maximum use of the worn wicket to complete the series win. It was the first time since 1988-89 that Australia had lost a Test series by more than one match.
Krishnamachari Srikkanth, India’s chairman of selectors, hailed the side for the manner of their victory.
“Australia is the No 1 team in the world and what I like about this victory is that India beat them fair and square,” Srikkanth said. “This is not a typical Indian turning wicket, but a pretty placid track which has been pretty good for batting.
“In Mohali it was a flat track too and we beat them comprehensively. Considering the circumstances and the condition of the wicket, I think we beat them very well.”
Srikkanth, who saw captain Anil Kumble retire after the third Test, with Ganguly following him after this match, said: “This is an absolute team effort. The batting has been fantastic, especially the starts from Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. And this match Murali Vijay gave us the right impetus.
“It has been the key to this series victory. If you look at the bowling analysis of the team as well, Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan have done extremely well on what essentially are placid tracks.
“Wickets in India are not conducive to fast bowling and there has been very little in it for the pacers.
“Yet, they have produced the breakthroughs at the right time and have provided Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra a fine platform to work from. The middle-order batted well with Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni all consistently contributing runs.
“This has been a super team effort.”
Dhoni took over as skipper from Kumble and Srikkanth believes he has the right man for the job. “Dhoni has his own style of captaincy and he has led very well. It’s three victories from three matches for him now,” Srikkanth said.
He has been a very able leader and has shown in this Test that he knows exactly when to attack and when to defend. The best quality about him is that he is able to get the best out of the younger players and gel the team together.”
The first and third Tests ended in draws, but with India winning the second Test in Mohali, the hosts only needed a draw here to clinch the series. Victory, though, was the perfect parting gift for former captain Sourav Ganguly, who had announced he would retire at the end of this Test.
Australia faced a stiff target at the start of play, needing 369 in three sessions. Katich and Hayden resumed the chase in earnest and had looked to take the attack to India’s bowlers in the morning.
India’s new ball bowler Zaheer Khan, who conceded 13 runs in his first over yesterday evening, showed intensity and accuracy from the start, repeatedly beating Katich’s edge in the first two overs.
Ishant was no less threatening but struggled to match Zaheer’s consistency. Yet, he was the more successful as he snared Katich when the left-handed batsman looked to cart him through the leg side.
Katich only managed an edge which went high in the air towards gully and Mahendra Singh Dhoni ran round to take the catch.
Ponting was off the mark with an edged boundary through the slips and showed more authority when he drove Zaheer for his second four. The Australia skipper then pushed a ball from Zaheer to Mishra at mid-on and set off for a single only for Mishra to catch him well short of the crease with a direct hit.
An unwell Clarke came to the crease with the support of a runner and Ishant immediately saw a confident appeal for lbw turned down by umpire Billy Bowden.
Clarke was almost caught and bowled by Ishant off the third delivery he faced and twice edged Zaheer in the next over for boundaries to third man, both edges flying just wide of VVS Laxman at second slip.
Clarke added 45 for the third wicket with Hayden when Ishant broke through, sending Clarke back to the pavilion when the batsman edged straight to Dhoni.
Hayden was dropped on 26 by Dhoni as he attempted to cut Harbhajan in his first over and again on 35 by Rahul Dravid at slip as he attempted a reverse sweep.
Hayden attacked with vigour immediately after lunch, bringing up his half-century with a boundary through mid-on off part-time off-spinner Virender Sehwag and bludgeoning consecutive boundaries off Harbhajan. Together with Hussey, Hayden put on 68 runs for the fourth wicket to set India back slightly.
Harbhajan, however, persevered and reaped rich rewards as he trapped Hayden in front as the left-hander attempted to work a delivery on the on-side.
Mishra had by then ended the fourth wicket stand by sending back Hussey, turning it from the rough outside off-stump and inducing the edge which was held by Dravid.
Haddin’s stay at the crease was brief and ended when he stepped down the track to cart Mishra over the top. He ended up hitting straight to Sachin Tendulkar who held his 100th catch in Test cricket.
Watson (nine) was Harbhajan’s second wicket, snaffled by Dhoni as he attempted a cut shot and he had Lee caught by Murali Vijay at short leg as he lunged forward in defence.
Johnson was Harbhajan’s final victim, given out leg before by umpire Aleem Dar to cue wild celebrations from the home contingent, who were joined by former captain Anil Kumble, who retired after the third Test.
India go straight into a seven-match one-day series against England starting on Friday.