The parched strip resembled a piece of baked land waiting for the first drops of monsoon rain. But the Ferozeshah Kotla wicket got its first sprinkling for a while on Sunday, soon after India had wrapped up an exciting victory over Australia in the final Test to seal a historic first 4-0 series whitewash.
Play on the third day was on fast forward mode, but for skipper MS Dhoni and his men, it was about regaining self-belief in home comfort. That had been shattered in two overseas Test series routs in England and Australia, and the home reverse against England late last year.
The unpredictable pitch threatened to turn the game into a lottery, but India found the men to seize control and exact revenge for the humiliation suffered Down Under in 2011-12. It completed the misery of Australia, brushed aside in roughly four days in the first three matches. The series success surpassed India's previous sweeps against England (1993) and Sri Lanka (1993-4).
India's six-wicket win came with over 30 minutes left to play, leaving thousands delirious. They were all out with just a 10-run lead in the morning. But young left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja galvanised the team by capturing five wickets, bowling accurate left-arm spin to dismiss Australia for 164 in just 46.3 overs. Scorecard
Cheteshwar Pujara then braved a knock received on his right hand while batting in the first inn-ings to take charge of the tricky chase. He was unbeaten on 82 when Dhoni called for a new bat and smashed the winning four.
For a change, the Aussies held the edge at the start of the day. Their attempts to sledge and put India's tail-enders off began even before the players had crossed the boundary rope. It worked as off-spinner Nathan Lyon took the last two wickets as the innings folded in 13 deliveries. Lyon finished with a career-best 7/94.
India were under pressure as their only hope of victory on the treacherous pitch lay in chasing a small target. But Ravichandran Ashwin, named man-of-the-series for his haul of 29 wickets, looked off-colour. But Jadeja has grown as a Test-level spinner with each outing. He bowled the promoted Glenn Maxwell and then trapped opener David Warner (8) and the set Ed Cowan (24). Warner, the leader of the sledging brigade, was given a big send-off.
Stand-in skipper Shane Watson' poor batting got worse when Pragyan Ojha sneaked one under his rash pull to bowl him.
Still, the match appeared to be slipping away when the No 9 Peter Siddle (50) top-scored with his second fifty. Suddenly, 155 looked very far.
The India dressing room balcony was a scene of animated discussion on how to bat on the pitch. But Pujara (92 balls, 10x4, 124 min) played sublime shots and his 104-run partnership with Virat Kohli (41) seemed to have settled matters.
But Lyon struck, trapping Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar (1) with Ajinkya Rahane (1) throwing his wicket away. With three wickets down for five runs, there were jitters. But once Dhoni settled down, the Aussie hopes, and chatter, quickly faded.