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

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Australia’s unbeaten streak dating to 1988 at Brisbane venue ended

India’s Rishabh Pant hits the ball for six runs during play on the final day of the fourth cricket Test between India and Australia at the Gabba, Brisbane, Australia, Jan 19. Inset: Pant carries the trophy as he celebrates with his teammates after defeating Australia by three wickets on the final day of the fourth cricket Test at the Gabba, Brisbane, Australia. India won the Test series 2-1. (AP)

BRISBANE, Australia, Jan 19, (AP): Cheteshwar Pujara took the hits and Rishabh Pant counterpunched as India chased down a record to win the Border-Gavaskar trophy with three wickets in hand and three overs to spare against Australia.

With the series tied 1-1 ahead of the fourth Test, India needed only a draw to retain the trophy. But the injury-depleted India squad had a bigger target in mind and played with no fear to post the highest successful fourth-innings chase in a Test at the Gabba, ending Australia’s unbeaten streak dating to 1988 at the Brisbane venue. Pant hit the winning boundary on Tuesday and finished unbeaten on 89 after a tenacious, three-hour innings. It was a fitting finale to a tension-filled series.

India resumed on 4 without loss and had 98 overs to chase a target of 328, or to survive three sessions for a draw. No team had scored more than 236- 7 in the fourth innings to win a Test match at the Gabba. India reached 329- 7 to win by three wickets, replacing the 1951 Australian team for that record.

To cap that, after never winning a Test series on Australian soil until 2018-19, India have 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.

Pant and later Washington Sundar (22) played some audacious shots that belied the pressure of the situation. “It really means a lot to us. I’m just proud of each and every individual,” India captain Ajinkya Rahane said. “Credit to Pujara, the way he handled the pressure was magnificent. And Rishabh was brilliant in the end.”

In the third test last week in Sydney, India batted through the last four sessions to force a draw, with Pant and Pujara playing key roles. They went one better this time, against most expectations. When paceman Pat Cummins (4-55) dismissed Rohit Sharma (7) in the 9th over, Pujura joined 21-year-old Gill in a 114-run stand that not only helped thwart the Australian attack but also kept India on track for an unlikely win.

Pujara continued with Rahane (24) after Gill was dismissed by Nathan Lyon 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, 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 Sundar that got India home. The noise from the crowd, only about 4,500 but mostly India supporters, increased with every scoring shot. The India squad did a victory lap of the Gabba – a rare sight for a visiting team – to acknowledge their supporters in the stadium.

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