Ravichandran Ashwin had the ball, with India attempting to defend 188 in the second Test in Bengaluru. Australia had lost Matt Renshaw early, but David Warner and Steve Smith had buckled in and, needing to go on the attack to tackle a small but tricky total, were at a healthy 42/1.
Warner, in fact, bravely stepped out, got to the pitch of the ball and smashed Ashwin for a six over mid-on. It was quite clear what Australia’s plan was.
Ashwin, who had bowled cleverly in the first innings for 2/84 in 49 overs, realised he needed to do something different. In Australia’s first hit, the off-spinner had foxed Warner by targeting the rough outside leg. This time, he decided to come around the wicket to the left-hander. He bowled full, and Warner, attempting to sweep, was rapped on the pads.
The finger went up, Warner reviewed, but the decision was in: umpire’s call. Warner had to go.
That wicket gave Ashwin – and India – a foot in the door, before a match of wildly swinging fortunes ended in a memorable 75-run win. The Indians were jubilant. And why not! Just four days before, it hadn’t looked likely.
Given the ease with which India had brushed aside challenges from New Zealand and England at home, Australia were expected to struggle on their tour. So it came as some surprise when they beat India at their own game of spin in the opening Test in Pune and ended the side’s remarkable run of 20 home Tests without a loss.
Smith’s men had looked set to make it 2-0 as India’s poor batting continued into the second Test in Bengaluru, with Nathan Lyon picking up eight wickets and India conceding an 87-run first-innings lead.
However, the home bowlers, crucially, put up a strong performance. While pacers Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav kept things tight, and Ashwin reminded the Australian batsmen of their old troubles with spin, Ravindra Jadeja made inroads with his left-arm spin to return 6/63.
Half-centuries from KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane marked a turnaround in the team’s batting as well. Yet, losing the last six wickets for 61 on the fourth morning, so that Australia were set only 188 to win, threatened to undo all the good work.
Fortunately for India, Ashwin was in his element. Yadav got the vital wickets of Shaun Marsh and Smith even as tempers flared, and after that, it was all Ashwin as he ran through the middle order.
It was fitting that he completed the win by having Lyon caught and bowled to cap a dramatic fourth day. He finished with 6/41 in the innings.
Not only was the series level at 1-1, but for India, victory was sweeter knowing that they could dig deep and come back fighting even when they had their backs against the wall.