Justin Langer compared Rishabh Pant’s innings at the Gabba to Ben Stokes’ for England at Headingley in 2019 after an injury-ravaged India triumphed 2-1 in the four-Test series.
Pant hit an unbeaten 89 on day five in Brisbane to complete a remarkable recovery for the tourists after they had begun the series by being bundled out for a record low of 36 in Adelaide and with their regular captain, Virat Kohli, leaving a demoralised team behind him as he returned home to attend the birth of his daughter.
Set a record target of 328 to win at the Gabba, the tourists reached it with three wickets in hand and only 18 balls left to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in a dramatic finale.
“It was an amazing effort, Pant’s innings reminded me of Ben Stokes’ at Headingley. He came in, was almost fearless and he’ll be lauded because of it. It was an unbelievable innings,” Australia’s head coach, Langer told 7Cricket. “It was an incredible Test series. There is a winner and a loser and we didn’t come out today, but Test cricket is the winner. It has been magnificent.
“It will hurt us big time and India deserve full credit because they have been outstanding. My God they are tough dusters and they deserve full credit but we will learn a lot of lessons.”
After Adelaide, India levelled the series in Melbourne under stand-in captain, Ajinkya Rahane, and drew in Sydney but had lost their entire frontline bowling attack to injuries by the time they arrived in Brisbane.
Washington Sundar and T Natarajan, retained as net bowlers, made their Test debuts, helping India to pull off a series victory for the ages .
It left their coach, Ravi Shastri, declaring that it will go down as one of the greatest series played.
“I’m not someone who really has tears in my eyes but I had real tears because this is unreal,” Shastri said. “The penny has still not dropped, and it will take a long time to drop. Unreal.
“What these guys have pulled off will go down in history as one of the greatest series ever played. When you take the Covid situation and the spate of injuries into account, showing stomach for a fight after being bowled out for 36 is unimaginable.”
The challenges of living in a biosecure bubble and the spate of injuries made it the toughest tour he could remember, said the former Test player. “This is the toughest tour ever. We’re playing in Covid times, quarantine times and with the multiple injuries – nothing comes close. It surpasses all.”
Rahane inspired India’s comeback with a captain’s century in Melbourne and the 32-year-old was at his modest best after the win. “I was emotional too. I still don’t know what happened and don’t know how to describe this,” said Rahane, who gifted a signed India shirt to Australia’s Nathan Lyon to mark the spinner’s 100th test after the match.
Pant labelled his series-winning innings “one of the biggest moments” of his life after India inflicted a first defeat on Australia at the Gabba since 1988. “This is one of the biggest moments of my life now,” Pant told espncricinfo.com. “It’s been a dream series. The team management always back me and tells me: ‘You are a match-winner’ and I keep thinking every day that I want to win matches for India and I did it today.”
The absent captain, Kohli, tweeted: “WHAT A WIN!!! Yessssss. To everyone who doubted us after Adelaide, stand up and take notice. Exemplary performance but the grit and determination was the standout for us the whole way. Well done to all the boys and the management. Enjoy this historic feat lads. Cheers.”
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Defeat for Australia and their captain, Tim Paine, added to the disappointment of the third Test, where they failed to bowl out India for victory on day five. After another final day to forget, the wicketkeeper conceded they need to review how they handle pressure.
Paine said: “Absolutely disappointed. We came here to win the Test and win the series. It’s been a bit of a trend that we were found wanting in the key moments and completely outplayed by a tough Indian side that fully deserves the win. I think there’s lots of things we’ll look back at, but what’s done is done. We need to look forward now. There’s a big series in South Africa coming up. We’ve been outplayed by the better side in this series.”