Greatest Test team: Virat Kohli’s 2018 India storm past Australia 1959 to reach the semi-finals

Virat Kohli’s 2018 India side clinched their place in the semi-finals of the Greatest Test Team with a 3-1 series victory over Richie Benaud’s 1959 Australians.

Cheteshwar Pujara led from the front in the first Test with an innings of 150 spanning seven hours which led his side to 417 all out. The Australians struggled in reply against the wily skills of R Ashwin, whose figures of 5-70 led to a first-innings lead of 135 for India.

Ray Lindwall took four wickets in the Indian second innings, but Ajinkya Rahane’s 126 enabled Kohli to declare at 300-9, setting Australia 436 to win. At 163-2 it looked like they might be able to bat out for the draw, but Ashwin had other ideas. He dismissed Norm O’Neill for 77 and Colin McDonald for 59 on his way to another five-wicket haul as the innings ended on 235, giving India victory by 200 runs.

  • The Greatest Test team – an introduction and the league phase
  • Quarter-final 1: McGrath sees off 1982 West Indies
  • Quarter-final 2: Can South Africa topple the ‘invincibles’?

Batting first again in the second Test, Rahane continued his run of form with another ton – this time an unbeaten innings of 120 which lifted his side from the doldrums of 38-3. Ishant Sharma was typical obdurate in making 14 in two and a half hours and sharing an eighth-wicket partnership of 67 with Rahane.

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Australia’s batting fared better this time around, with Peter Burge making 98, ably supported by McDonald, Neil Harvey and Ken Mackay. Jasprit Bumrah was the pick of the bowlers, ending with 5-91 and Sharma picked up four wickets on his own. KL Rahul and Murali Vijay opened the Indian second innings with a partnership of 128, but the rest failed to capitalise on useful starts and Australia were left to chase 242 to win after Alan Davidson had taken four wickets.

Norm O’Neill fought a lone hand with 79 as the Indian bowlers went to work, with three wickets apiece for Bumrah, Ashwin and Mohammed Shami bringing a 71-run victory and a 2-0 series lead.

Batting first in the third Test, McDonald and Les Favell started brightly with an opening partnership of 91. But other than the openers, no other batsman passed fifty in Australia’s total of 333.

Pujara then anchored the Indian reply with another masterpiece of concentration, batting for more than six hours in compiling 178 to help his side to a first-innings lead of 85. The Indian seamers were soon into their work and reduced Australia to 23-4 at which point it looked possible that India would not have to bat again.

Ken Mackay countered brilliantly, and thanks to partnerships with Benaud (92 for the sixth wicket), Wally Grout (88 for the eighth wicket) and Ray Lindwall (52 for the ninth wicket) he led Australia to 287, ending unbeaten on 104. India required 203 to win and they were wobbling after the early loss of their openers left them at 27-2.

But Pujara took them to the brink of victory, unluckily edging Lindwall to Grout when just a run short of his second century of the match. Rohit Sharma and Ashwin duly finished the job to clinch the series win for India with two matches to play.

Understandably disappointed after going 3-0 down, Australia’s batting failed again in the first innings of the fourth Test as three wickets apiece for Ishant, Bumrah and Ashwin dismissed them for 197, with four players scoring between 35 and 44 but none going on to reach a half-century.

Eighty-two from Murali Vijay and 52 from Rohit helped India to 287 in reply, with Alan Davidson taking 5-80. It was hard going for the Australian top order again in their second innings as they struggled to 81-4 before Norm O’Neill’s century led a rescue act.

Thanks to help from the lower order, which featured half-centuries from Davidson and Lindwall, they recovered to 410 all out, setting India 321 to win in a day. Despite Davidson’s best efforts, India were able to comfortably bat out the day thanks to Rahul, Pujara and Kohli.

With only Australian pride to play for in the final Test, perhaps it was unsurprising that India’s foot was a little off the gas as Richie Benaud’s century led his side to a first-innings total of 460. Davidson then continued his excellent form with the ball in taking 6-79 as India were dismissed for just 214 in reply, Kohli the only batsman to make a half-century.

Their second innings followed a similar pattern, with only Rahul able to remain at the crease for an extended period of time. When he was the fifth man to be dismissed for 76, the rest didn’t offer up too much resistance as Davidson’s 4-54 completed a ten-wicket match haul. Lindwall and Benaud chimed in with three wickets each to bring Australia an innings victory.

But it was too little, too late for Benaud’s boys and it was India who progress to join the two Australian teams already in the semi-finals. Join us tomorrow to discover which of England’s 2010 Ashes winners or South Africa’s 2013 world No 1 team will complete the line-up.

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