India qualify for WTC final after draw

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Head completes first half-century on Indian soil

AHMEDABAD, India, March 13, (AP): A tame draw against Australia was enough for India to qualify for the World Test Championship final on Monday, thanks to a more exciting finish in New Zealand. The result in Ahmedabad meant India won the fourtest series 2-1 and reclaimed the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, which it has held since 2017. That series margin would only put India into the WTC final if Sri Lanka failed to win its two-test series in New Zealand 2-0, and the Kiwis managed to win the first test on the last ball in a thrilling finish at Christchurch.

India’s players pose with the trophy after winning the The Border-Gavaskar test cricket series at the end of the fourth and final cricket test match between India and Australia in Ahmedabad, India. (AP)

That means India will face Australia again in the WTC final at the Oval in London from June 7-11. Australia had confirmed its qualification after winning the third test in Indore by nine wickets. India had earlier won the first two tests – in Nagpur by an innings and 132 runs, and in Delhi by six wickets – to maintain its grasp on the series trophy. “It was a fantastic series from the word go,” India captain Rohit Sharma said. “We knew how important it was to start the series (on a winning note). I am also proud of the win in the Delhi test. Different players put their hands up at different times.”

In contrast to the drama at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch, Ahmedabad witnessed a sedate day five. At close of play, Australia had reached 175-2 in its second innings. It had scored 480 runs in the first innings, to which India replied with 571. After lunch on day five, Travis Head completed his first half-century on Indian soil off 112 balls. He went on to score 90 runs, facing 163 deliveries in all, with 10 fours and two sixes. Head added 139 runs with Marnus Labuschagne for the second wicket, and their stand was able to nullify India’s first innings’ lead of 91 runs. Labuschagne reached 50 off 150 balls, and finished with 63 not out. Axar Patel (1-36) bowled Head before the tea break to deny his hundred.

Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara came up to bowl as the last hour of play approached, when the players decided to shake hands. Steve Smith finished unbeaten on 10 runs. “The wicket here was too fl at for us to force a result,” said Smith, the stand-in Australia captain. “The spinners have bowled really well throughout.” The fourth test saw four centuries, bucking the spin-friendly trend of this series. Usman Khawaja (180) and Cameron Green (114) headlined the Australian first innings, while Shubman Gill (128) and Virat Kohli (186) propelled the Indian response.

Ashwin took 6-91 in Australia’s first innings. Kohli was named player of the match for scoring his 28th test hundred and breaking a run of 41 test innings without a century, stretching back to November 2019. “I felt I was batting well from the first test,” Kohli said. “I knew if there was an opportunity on a decent wicket, then I can make a big one. I was able to play the way I wanted to play, which was a relief.” Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were named joint players of the series. They finished with 25 and 22 wickets, respectively, with Jadeja also scoring a half-century in the first test. The two sides now will meet in a three-match ODI series starting in Mumbai on March 17.

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