Australia overcame a wobbly start to their second innings against India to claim a memorable victory on a temperamental Indore pitch, keeping their hopes of levelling the four-Test series alive. Tasked with chasing 76 runs for victory at the beginning of day three, the visitors got one back on the hosts courtesy of Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head.
With 30 wickets having fallen over the course of the first two days of play, Australia were no certainty to win thanks to the pitch, which had proven difficult for batsmen of both sides throughout the first innings. That trend looked as though it may continue on just the second ball of the day, when opener Usman Khawaja was given out after feathering Ravi Ashwin's delivery to wicketkeeper Srikar Bharat.
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It was a cruel end to the Test for Khawaja, whose impressive 60-run stand in the first innings had helped Australia gain the upper hand on day one. Sadly, there would be no repeat of those heroics as Khawaja fruitlessly referred the dismissal, only for the umpire's decision to be confirmed.
Labuschagne came to the crease to accompany Head, and though the likes of Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja gave both trouble at times, eventually the two Australians were able to shift the momentum in their favour with a handful of boundaries. Beforehand, India unsuccessfully reviewed two separate appeals, with quick wickets their only chance of an unlikely win.
Head, who was left out of the side for the first Test, soon came to grips with the surface, launching a massive six to make a sizeable dent in Australia's run chase in one fell swoop. He made the decision not to play him in the first Test, in which Australia's batters were humbled, looking ever more foolish.
Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne secure crucial Test win over India
A thumping boundary from Labuschagne secured Australia's first win of the series, a win within two days after losing within three in both of the first two Tests. Labuschagne finished unbeaten on 28, with Head also unbeaten on 49.
Australian fans on social media were rapt with the victory, despite the pitch having undoubtedly played a role in the nine-wicket thrashing of the hosts.
Credit where credit is due. Great win by Australia. Goes part of the way to making up for the disaster of the first two Tests.
— Ray Gatt (@Gatty54) March 3, 2023
Just the third time in 10 years that India have been beaten in a Test on home soil. #INDvAUS
— Scott Bailey (@ScottBaileyAAP) March 3, 2023
— Paul Tobin (@ptobz29) March 3, 2023
Aussies win the third test convincingly after some pressure by spin. Ashwin let the distraction get to him and lost his plot. Head and Marnus stayed on their ground and ensured they took their team home. Well played and an amazing game ended in 3 days again.#INDvAUS
— mangesh dhaimade 🇮🇳 (@mangeshdhaimade) March 3, 2023
Hell of a performance by Australia.
Adapted their approach so ruthlessly after getting hammered in Delhi. A genuine all-rounder remains a priceless asset in the ultimate format.
Sets up a thrilling finale in Ahmedabad.
— Squinting Quarantino (@whamzam17) March 3, 2023
A chase of less than 100 would ordinarily have been straightforward, but the pitch spinning and bouncing sharply meant Australia started day three with some apprehension. India were dismissed for 109 and 163, while Australia's first innings of 197 ended with a dramatic collapse of 6-11.
Australia were forced to defend for the first 10 overs, but Head and Labuschagne started to play with a sense of freedom after Ashwin was rattled by the state of the ball. Ashwin complained several times to umpires about the ball, and continued to express frustration even after it was changed at the 10-over mark.
Head and Labuschagne then took on the star spinner, smashing several quick boundaries to ease any tension in Australia's dressing room. Head's unbeaten 49 came from just 53 balls, adding evidence that he plays his best in Asia batting at the top of the order following his promotion to open after David Warner's exit from the tour.
Star spinner Nathan Lyon was named player of the match for his 11-99, including a legendary spell of 8-64 to run through India in their second innings. The final Test of the series will get underway on March 9 in Ahmedabad. It's uncertain whether Australian skipper Pat Cummins will play, after missing the third Test to be beside his mother as she entered palliative care.
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