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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Lower order partnerships key to India’s dominant home season

India ended a long Test season on a high after defeating Australia 2-1. One of the keys to their success was the lower order partnerships that rescued the team on a consistent basis.

cricket Updated: Mar 29, 2017 14:15 IST
Wriddhiman Saha stitched a 199-run seventh-wicket stand with Cheteshwar Pujara in the Ranchi Test against Australia.
Wriddhiman Saha stitched a 199-run seventh-wicket stand with Cheteshwar Pujara in the Ranchi Test against Australia. (REUTERS)

India capped off a magnificent Test season at home by registering a 2-1 series win over Australia with an eight-wicket win in the fourth and final Test at the HPCA stadium in Dharamsala. The result summed up India’s domination in a season where they have brushed aside New Zealand, England and Bangladesh before Australia.

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From batsmen to bowlers, there have been all-round performances from the team. The likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli scored big consistently while the likes of Umesh Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin ran through oppositions with pace, spin and skill.

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However, if there was one factor that helped India immensely during the 13-Test season was the contribution of the lower order. The fact that batsmen from numbers six to 11 chipped in at vital times and shared partnerships to rescue India was a huge factor.

New Zealand suffer sixth wicket blues

By cutting down India to 106/6 in the second Test at the Eden Gardens last September, New Zealand had started hoping to limit India’s lead. However, Rohit Sharma (82) and Wriddhiman Saha (58*) shared a 103-run stand for the seventh wicket that took the game away from Kane Williamson’s team. Set with a target of 376, NewZealand suffered a 178-run loss and lost the series.

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This was not the only time Rohit had hurt New Zealand. In the Kanpur Test, he had shared a partnership of 52 with Ravindra Jadeja for the sixth wicket while in the second innings, he shared a stand of exactly 100 to give India victory in their 500th Test.

England fail to blow away the tail

The series where India’s tail-enders had a big impact was against England. It all started from the second Test in Visakhapatnam when Ashwin had shared a 64-run stand with debutant Jayant Yadav to help India go past 400. However, it was in Mohali that the Indian tail hurt England most.

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Jadeja played a big role in that Test as he first shared a 97-run stand for the seventh wicket with Ashwin followed by a partnership of 80 with Jayant for the eighth wicket. Jadeja’s 90 and his partnerships helped India take a lead of over 100 runs as England never recovered from there.

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The body blow for Alastair Cook’s team was landed in Mumbai when Kohli shared a record 241-run stand for the eighth wicket with Jayant. The Indian skipper notched up his highest individual Test score of 235 while Jayant became the first Indian No.9 batsman to score a Test century.

In Chennai, Karun Nair became the second Indian to score a triple century and his stands of 181 and 138 for the sixth and seventh wicket with Ashwin and Jadeja respectively allowed India to register 759/7 declared, their highest Test score. All these partnerships ensured India defeated England by a comprehensive scoreline of 4-0.

Australia’s troubles with lucky seven

Australia had taken an unexpected lead after winning the first Test in Pune. Heading into Bangalore, they were all set to make it 2-0 but Pujara and Rahane stitched a 118-run stand for the fifth wicket that turned the game. On a helpful pitch, Australia found the going tough and lost by 75 runs. Had it not been for Pujara and Rahane’s stand, the series would have been lost.

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In the Ranchi Test, Pujara was once again in the centre and this time he stitched a partnership of 199 for the seventh wicket with Wriddhiman Saha, who also slammed his third century. The stand became the highest of the series and it gave India a chance to push for a win, only for Australia to hang in for a draw.

In Dharamsala, with the series tied 1-1, India were in a precarious position. In response to Australia’s 300, India were 248/6 but a partnership of 96 for the seventh wicket between Jadeja and Saha helped India erase the deficit. The partnership helped India take a 32-run lead and the hosts put in an inspired show to bowl out Australia for 137. That partnership sealed the match and the series in grand style.

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In the past, big partnerships from the tail were rare. However, with this Indian team, they have shown that everyone can chip in. The end result - seven consecutive series wins with a promise of a bright future.

First Published: Mar 29, 2017 14:11 IST