Mohali, March 18 (IANS) India took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the Border-Gavaskar cricket series beating Australia by six wickets in a thrilling finish on the final day of the third Test at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium here Monday.
The victory was all the more creditable as it came in four days after rain washed out the opening day’s play without a ball being bowled. Debutant Shikhar Dhawan was judged Man of the Match for his whirlwind 187.
On the final day, there were stages when Australia looked like saving the Test, particularly when the last two wickets added 80 runs to stretch their second innings score to 223. That, however, left India to get only a meagre 132 runs for victory in a minimum of 33.3 overs. Australia made 408 in the first innings and India replied with 499.
There was some artificial excitement in the last hour when India made heavy weather of the target. Eventually, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (18 not out) took the team home, hitting three consecutive fours with 2.3 overs left.
India started with Murali Vijay (26) and Cheteshwar Pujara (28) as first-innings century-maker Shikhar Dhawan injured his finger while fielding and did not come out to bat. The duo added 42 runs for the first wicket before VIjay was stumped by Brad Haddin off left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty.
Then Pujara and Virat Kohli (34) added 28 runs for the second-wicket before Nathan Lyon trapped Pujara leg-before.
Kohli hit some crisp fours, but run-making was not easy as fast bowlers Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc kept a tight line, using reverse swing to good effect. Siddle got rid of the well-set Kohli, whose mistimed flick ended up in the hands of a diving Phil Hughes at short mid-wicket.
With 17 required off the last four overs, Sachin Tendulkar (21) was run out after a brilliant effort from David Warner. Ravindra Jadeja (8 not out) hit two fours in the same over to ease the pressure and left it to Dhoni to finish off in style.
Earlier, Jadeja (3/35) and Pragyan Ojha’s left-arm spin (2/26) ran through the Australian middle order with offie Ravichandran Ashwin chipping in with two, including the wicket of top scorer Phil Jacques, who struck form with a gritty 69.
Ojha and Jadeja bowled in tandem as Australia lost five wickets for 54 runs. Ojha was the first to strike to get rid of night-watchman Nathan Lyon (18), caught behind by Dhoni.
Jadeja dismissed skipper Michael Clarke (18) for the fifth time in the series as the Australian skipper tried to flick and was caught bat-pad by Pujara.
Jadeja removed Moises Henriques (2) with an excellent diving catch off his own bowling and Ojha castled Siddle (13) to leave Australia struggling at 143 for eight.
Then came the two stubborn stands to carry Australia past the 200-run mark. Brad Haddin (30) and Starc (35) added 36 runs for the ninth wicket while Starc and Doherty (18) contributed valuable 44 runs for the last wicket.