India cricket star Virat Kohli has been pictured in a classy moment with Australia's players after the conclusion of the fourth and final Test of the series. India secured a 2-1 series win after the fourth Test in Ahmedabad ended in a draw, with just 21 wickets falling across 15 sessions on a lifeless pitch.
It was a far cry from the pitches for the first three Tests, all of which ended in less than three days on wickets that were raging turners. However, the draw ultimately proved enough for India to book a date with the Aussies in June's World Test Championship final, following New Zealand dramatic draw with Sri Lanka that ended the latter's hopes of qualifying for it.
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While Australia has been left to rue missed opportunities to at least draw the series 2-2 with India - most notably during their dramatic second Test batting collapse in Delhi - the players did manage to come away with a rare win away to India for the third Test. Although slightly disappointed about what could have been, stand-in skipper Steve Smith said the matches were played in "really good spirit", which has not often been the case between the two sides.
That fact was wonderfully illustrated after the fourth Test when superstar India batter Virat Kohli could be seen presenting mementos with his Aussie rivals. Kohli was pictured exchanging signed shirts with fellow fourth Test centurion Usman Khawaja and other players from the Aussie team.
Kohli & Khawaja exchanged their Test jerseys - Nice gesture. pic.twitter.com/sdaWvBxV4p
— Johns. (@CricCrazyJohns) March 13, 2023
Virat Kohli gifted his Test jersey to Australian players. pic.twitter.com/qsBoFw8b9t
— Johns. (@CricCrazyJohns) March 13, 2023
Players from both teams could also be seen chatting and joking between overs, in a drastic change from previous tours. The last time the Aussies were in India in 2017, Kohli accused Smith of cheating by looking up to his dressing room during umpire referrals from the field, while former Aussie captain Tim Paine questioned how anyone could like Kohli when his side came to Australia in 2018.
There is a belief that strict ICC codes of player conduct and the intermingling of players in T20 leagues like the IPL have made cricketers tone down their temper and even become friends. There was definitely more than an element of that at the conclusion of the fourth Test, with Smith praising player from both teams on how the series played out.
"I thought the game was played in really good spirit," said Smith, who led the team in two Tests in the absence of Pat Cummins. "It was very relaxed, we were letting cricket do the talking, just a really good series to be a part of, everyone was enjoying themselves out on the field."
He added: "The first three games were pretty quick ones (finished inside three days) but it was a great series to be a part of and great fun."
Steve Smith laments missed opportunities
Smith says while he was proud of the manner the fourth Tests were played in and the way the Aussie bounced back from humiliation in the first two Tests, there was an underlying sense of disappointment. "We really hurt after that game in Delhi," Smith said.
"Guys were pretty upset with the way we went away from our methods in that game, it was disappointing. Obviously at that point we knew there was plenty to still play for in the series and guys responded really well and as a group we are proud of the way we bounced back and play some good cricket in the last couple of Test matches."
Starting day five on Monday still trailing India by 91 runs, Australia were comfortably steered to safety by Travis Head (90) and Marnus Labuschange (63 no) as the match was called off early with neither team capable of securing a victory. Australia declared on 2-175 with Labuschange and Smith (10 no) at the crease after making 480 in their first innings when Khawaja (180) and Cameron Green (114) scored memorable centuries.
India batted even better, piling on 571 as Kohli (186) broke through for his first century in more than three years and young opener Shubman Gill scored an excellent 128. Kohli was named player of the match, while star Indian allrounders Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin were rewarded for match-winning performances across the four Tests by sharing the man-of-the-series award.
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