Brisbane: Wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, whose dismissal for 97 through rush of blood on the fifth day of the last Test in Sydney denied India a possible victory, on Tuesday stayed till the end on the fifth day of the Gabba Test to ensure he saw India off to a historic win at the venue considered to be a fortress for Australia.
The highest target chased at The Gabba before India surpassed 328 with three wickets in hand on Tuesday was 236, way back in 1951 by hosts Australia against West Indies.
Over the next 70 years, although teams have made bigger fourth innings score at The Gabba — like 450 by Pakistan in 2016 — no one has chased a fourth-innings target to win a game. Importantly, no team had beaten Australia in Brisbane in last 32 years. The last time the Aussies lost a Test at The Gabba was against West Indies in 1988.
So when Cheteshwar Pujara (56) was the fourth wicket dismissed with the score at 228 on Tuesday and India needed exactly a 100 to win, the odds were stacked heavily against them.
However Pant, who initially batted in a circumspect manner while curbing his natural strokes and had buckled down in the company of Pujara, opened up after the departure of the India’s batting mainstay.
From 34 off 84 deliveries at the time of Pujara’s dismissal, he finished with unbeaten 89 off 138 balls, scoring his last 55 runs off 54 balls.
“I think this is the biggest thing in my life right now. I am happy (and thankful) to the support staff, and all the fans who supported me even though I was not playing the initial matches (the limited overs series games and the first pink-ball Test). But it has been a dream series I can say that. I had been practising hard and everything paid off because we won the series,” said Pant who was adjudged the Player of the Match.
The hosts had won the first Test of the series in Adelaide, while bowling out India with the pink ball for their lowest Test total of 36. The Rahane-led side, however, registered a stunning comeback in Melbourne, winning the Boxing Day Test by eight wickets. The third Test then ended in an epic draw in Sydney.
Pant said the team management, including coach Ravi Shastri and stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane, had backed him and encouraged him by calling him a match-winner.
“The team management always backs saying that you are a match-winner and you always have to go and win the match for the team. That is the only thing I keep thinking every day. I always think that I want to win matches for India and I am happy that I did it today,” added the 23-year-old.
Pant said he was more disciplined, although there were some loose shots too during the course of his Tuesday’s knock.
“Yes, this was a fifth day pitch. The ball was turning a bit and I thought I have to be disciplined with my shot selection and if you win the match everything pays off well. Everything went so well.”