India made it to the ICC World Test Championship final for the 2021-23 cycle on Monday despite its fourth and final Test against Australia ending in a dull draw at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Monday.
With some purchase for the bowlers on an otherwise benign surface on the final day, the Indian camp went for lunch, keeping a tab on the proceedings in Christchurch where Sri Lanka — the other team in contention for a spot in the WTC final — was playing against New Zealand.
Making it on PCT
By then, there were indications that the fourth Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was heading for a draw, and Sri Lanka needed a 2-0 win over New Zealand to set up the WTC summit clash against Australia at The Oval in London in June.
But as Sri Lanka went down to the Kiwis, India surged ahead, riding on its points percentage (PCT) advantage (60.25).
The final berth sealed, the Indian players came into the second session visibly elated and a sluggish performance was on display by both teams before they called it a day with Australia at 175 for two.
Resuming the day at three for one, Australia lost nightwatchman Matthew Kuhnemann early, trapped leg before by R. Ashwin. But Travis Head (90, 163b, 10×3, 2×6) and Marnus Labuschagne (63 n.o., 213b, 7×4) stood firm and ensured there wasn’t any further damage.
Despite the surface not offering much to the bowlers, a relentless Ashwin challenged the Aussie batters in the first couple of sessions. However, without much assistance from the other end, India failed to tighten the noose.
Head survived an LBW review by Ashwin just before lunch and making the most of the opportunities, the opener forged a steady partnership with Labuschagne, who struggled to get going in the first innings, making sure that Australia did not falter.
Head batted for 245 minutes and looked set on course for his maiden century before an Axar Patel delivery landed in the rough and crashed into the top of the off-stump, denying him a century by 10 runs. That was Axar’s 50th Test wicket.
After Head’s exit, Steve Smith was dropped by K.S. Bharat on a duck, but Labuschagne doused whatever little hope India had of a turnaround before the stumps were drawn.