Cricket: Dominant India end 71-year wait to win first Test series in Australia

India's captain Virat Kohli (centre) walks with teammates as they celebrate winning the Test series between India and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Jan 7, 2019.
India's captain Virat Kohli (centre) walks with teammates as they celebrate winning the Test series between India and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Jan 7, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (Reuters) - India ended a 71-year wait for a test series victory in Australia on Monday (Jan 7), their 2-1 triumph finally confirmed when the rain-affected fourth and final test ended in a draw at Sydney Cricket Ground early on Monday afternoon.

The finale may have ultimately have turned out to be a damp squib but Virat Kohli's tourists utterly dominated what action there was to deservedly become the first side from the Asian sub-continent to take the honours Down Under.

Wins in the first test in Adelaide and third in Melbourne ensured they could not lose the series and their batsmen, led by a 193 from Cheteshwar Pujara, batted Australia out of the fourth match with a daunting 622-7 declared total in the first innings.

That all but destroyed home hopes of a face-saving victory and India's spinners then got to work to drive home the advantage in the field against an Australia side that failed to muster a single century over the series.

The hosts were duly dismissed for 300 and Kohli did not hesitate to go for the jugular by enforcing the follow-on - the first time in 30 years Australia had suffered such ignominy on home soil.

Ultimately, it was the Sydney weather that saved Australia from a 3-1 humiliation with no play possible after tea on day four, when they had mustered up six runs without loss in their second innings.

"By far, it has to be at the top of the pile," Kohli said at the presentation ceremony when asked if the series win was the biggest moment in his career.

"Having been to this country three times now and to understand what we've done has never been done before is something that we can really be proud for.

"I feel the series win will give us a different identity as an Indian team and, going forward, I think we can inspire more kids to do the same when they grow up and play cricket for the country."

For some Australians, the series will always carry an asterisk given their two best batsmen, Steve Smith and David Warner, were unavailable because of bans they received for the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year.

Tim Paine's side were unable to paper over the cracks left by their absence, and even the vaunted pace attack of Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins failed to fire, except for spells in the victory in Perth.

"I thought we actually had our chances to win the test match in Adelaide, India just outplayed us in big moments in that test," Paine said.

"In Perth, I thought we played a very good game of cricket but, when we went to Melbourne and Sydney, we've been outplayed in all departments.

"It's been great for some guys to get some experience in international cricket, particularly the top six, against potentially the best pace bowling attack in the world at the moment. So they are going to learn hell lot from that."

India's trio of seamers Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, by contrast, were highly disciplined and executed their plans to perfection to exploit the weaknesses in the Australian batting.

With the bat, the tourists managed to score five centuries over the four matches with Player-of-the-Series Pujara recording three of them, aggregating 521 runs from seven innings at an average of 74.42.

There was a century for captain Kohli, of course, and one in Sydney for the younger generation through the irrepressible wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant.

India have still never won a series in South Africa but finally breaking through in Australia will do much to burnish the reputation of Kohli and a team already ranked No. 1 in the world in the longest format of the game.