Pant guides India to historic, series-clinching win at Gabba

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Cheteshwar Pujara took the hits and Rishabh Pant counterpunched with an unbeaten 89 as India chased down a record total to win the Border-Gavaskar trophy with three overs and three wickets to spare on the last day of the series.

The injury-depleted India squad played with no fear, ending Australia’s unbeaten run at the Gabba that dated to 1988.

India resumed Tuesday on 4 without loss and had 98 overs to chase a victory target of 328 or three full sessions to bat through to salvage the draw it needed to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

No team had scored more than 236-7 in the fourth innings to win a test match at the Gabba. India won by three wickets and, with a total of 329-7, now replaces Australia's team of 1951 for that record.

After never winning a test series on Australian soil until 2018-19, India has now done it twice on consecutive tours Down Under.

Opener Shubman Gill posted 91, Pujara absorbed no fewer than 11 hits in his 211-ball 56. The four-test had been tied 1-1, meaning India needed only a draw to retain the trophy.

India batted through the last four sessions to salvage a draw in the third test in Sydney, with Pant and Pujara playing key roles. They went one better this time, again against most expectations.

When paceman Pat Cummins (4-55) dismissed Rohit Sharma (7) in the 9th over, Pujura joined 21-year-old Shubman Gill in a 114-run stand that not only helped thwart the Australian attack but also kept India in the contest for an unlikely win.

Pujara continued with Ajinkya Rahane (24) after Gill was caught at slip of Nathan Lyon for 91 and then joined forces with Pant after Cummins struck again to remove India’s stand-in captain and make the score 167-3.

While Pujara kept taking blows to the helmet, hands and body in a stonewalling innings to post his 28th test half century, Pant kept up the strike rate.

He took command when Cummins finally trapped Pujara lbw late in the evening session, and guided the partnerships with Mayank Agarwal (9) and Washington Sundar (22) that got India home. The noise from the crowd, only about 4,500 but mostly India supporters, increased with every scoring shot.

Pant’s 97 on the last day of the third test in Sydney last week was instrumental in helping India force a draw and keep the series level.

In Brisbane, India prevented Australia from getting into a position to score quickly and declare on day four, when Mohammed Siraj took his maiden five-wicket haul to restrict the hosts to 294 in the second innings.

Rain washed out much of the last session Monday, meaning Sharma and Gill only had to survive 11 balls before stumps on the penultimate day.

India without almost a dozen front-line players, including skipper Virat Kohli who returned home after the first test in Adelaide to be with his wife for the birth of their first child, born on the day India held Australia to a draw in Sydney.

The bowling group was missing its biggest names. Ishant Sharma didn’t make it onto the tour, Mohammed Shami broke his arm while batting in the first test and his fellow fast bowler Umesh Yadav was ruled out after the second test.

Leading spinner Ravichandran Ashwin played a big role with the bat in helping India in Sydney, but did so with a back problem that ultimately meant he couldn’t play in the deciding test. When pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah was ruled out of the fourth test, India was left with one of its least experienced bowling attacks ever in a test match.

Mohammed Siraj, who made his debut in Melbourne last month, just weeks after his father died in India, led the attack in just his third test match. He was supported by Shardul Thakur, in his second test, and Thangarasu Natarajan making his test debut at age 29. Without the services of Ashwin and allrounder Ravindra Jadeja, who broke his thumb in Sydney, Sundar got his test debut and performed exceptionally well with bat and ball.

The beleaguered India attack achieved what the vaunted Australian bowling unit couldn’t do at the Gabba, take 20 wickets.

For the whole series Australia retained the same bowlers who skittled India for 36 en route to winning the first test by eight wickets. As they fatigued, India’s crop of fresh recruits maintained an intensity.

All the newcomers played with the kind of resolve and resilience which has given the India squad the moral victory on long, arduous tour in the COVID era.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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