As expected, India scored the 106 runs that they needed to win the fourth and final Test and regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, but, nothing should be taken away from Australia's achievement.
India lost two wickets in the process of chasing Australia's total. Fittingly, it was KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane that saw them home.
For Rahul, it capped a fine series as he finished unbeaten on 51, an effort that delighted Kohli.
“To look at KL, the way he’s played in the series is probably not in the focus too much but to get six in seven fifty plus scores is unbelievable for an opener to have that kind of consistency. Obviously he wants to convert them into big runs but the impact he’s had in this series not giving early wickets to Australia has been very, very pleasing for me to see,” Kohli said.
There was one note of disappointment for India’s captain who believed that there had been enough antagonism between the two sides on the pitch to break some friendships.
“I’m really good friends with all these guys off the field,” he said. “I know them really well but I know where to draw the line of friendship when you step onto the field. It has changed. I thought that was the case but it has changed for sure. As I said, in the heat of the battle you want to be competitive but I've been proven wrong. The thing I said before the first Test that has certainly changed and you won't hear me say that ever again.”
Kohli admitted Australia had been the toughest opponent across the four series and admired their spirit.
“They had the belief of making things happen in these conditions,” he said. “They believed that they can win sessions and win situations and they were willing to enjoy the challenge. Teams really lose their morale once they lose a Test match in India but they kept bouncing back and they had the desire to compete throughout.”
Steve Smith had similar feelings about his team’s efforts.
“We fought very hard throughout the series and to fall over at the final hurdle, it hurts,” he said. “The boys in the room are hurting. We played a good style of cricket over here, we competed in every Test match that we’ve played in and for that I’m really proud in the boys.”
“This team’s grown so quickly. We’re still a very young side. I know coming over here that we’ve been written off and (people were saying that) we’re going to lose four-nil and all that kind of stuff but the way that we’ve been able to compete in each and every Test match it’s been great to be part of and a fantastic series.”
There have been plenty of other notable performers too. The partnership of Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh to bat most of the final day in Ranchi was a wonderful effort even if they only averaged around 28 and 18 respectively over the four Tests. Glenn Maxwell’s century in the first innings of that match ensured that his average of nearly 40 was second only behind Smith while Matthew Wade made runs fairly consistently. So much is expected of David Warner these days at the top of the order that many felt that he had a poor series. It’s true that his average was only around 24 with a single half-century but his 193 runs across the series was virtually the same as both Renshaw and Handscomb.
Other than the eleven overs bowled by Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh between them only four bowlers were used in each Test with Pat Cummins replacing Mitchell Starc in the last two matches. For each of them to have averages of under 33 is an outstanding effort. Lyon and Steve O’Keefe each took 19 wickets showing just how well they worked together in tandem especially in the spin friendly conditions in the first Test in Pune. When one wasn’t being rewarded then the other tended to step up. Josh Hazlewood was as consistent as ever and probably unlucky to only take 9 wickets in the entire series but his tight lines and lengths ensured that India always struggled to score against him.
A highlight was definitely the return of Pat Cummins after his extended lay-off from both Test and first class cricket.
The one player that stood above them all, however, was Smith himself. He finished the series with 499 runs at an average of over 70 including three hundreds, more than twice the number of runs as Renshaw who was second on the list with 232.
This was a fine series and one of the best that has been played in recent years. It was highly competitive, fought hard and with no clear winner until the second last day. It will always be a standout in the memory of those that were fortunate enough to witness it.