MELBOURNE, Australia — Captain Virat Kohli said Dec. 30 his side had a “great opportunity” to make history by becoming the first India team to win a test series in Australia.
India’s bowlers needed only 4.3 overs to claim a 137-run victory over Australia on the fifth day of the third cricket test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
World No. 1-ranked India has taken a 2-1 lead in the four-match series and retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
The fourth and final test starts in Sydney on Jan. 3.
“If you want to win a series away from home, it has to be an obsession,” Kohli said. “Hats off to the whole team for sticking together, believing in themselves and being obsessed about getting results.
“It’s a great opportunity. There are definitely factors and incentives attached to this particular series.”
Kohli praised his side for fighting back after losing the second test in Perth.
“We always believed this is very possible because of the talent that we have in the side,” Kohli said. “The best thing about this win would be to bounce back again. That’s why this victory is more special for the bowlers because they have been so tired. They’ve bowled so many overs.”
Kohli said the team’s No. 1 spinner Ravi Ashwin, who missed the Melbourne test with an abdominal injury, was close to regaining full fitness. Both sides are considering twin-spin attacks, on a pitch that is expected to take turn.
Fifth-ranked Australia has added legspinner Marnus Labuschagne to its squad for the Sydney test.
The South Africa-born player, who made his test debut for Australia against Pakistan in Dubai in October, has played two test matches. Labuschagne has taken seven wickets at 22.42.
Australia had resumed Dec. 30 in a hopeless position at 258-8, requiring 141 runs to win.
Tailenders Pat Cummins (63) and Nathan Lyon (seven) fell in successive overs after adding 46 for the ninth wicket.
India quick Jasprit Bumrah (6-33 and 3-53) completed a memorable debut year in test cricket with 48 wickets in nine matches including nine wickets in the Melbourne test.
One shining light for fifth-ranked Australia in this match has been the all-round contributions of 25-year-old seamer Cummins, who claimed a career-best 6-27 in India’s second innings before scoring a career-best 63.
Top-ranked India set up its victory with an imposing first-innings tally of 443-7, which was scored in almost two days of batting on a slow-paced pitch. Cheteshwar Pujara’s patient 106 included a 170-run stand with Kohli (82) for the third wicket.
In reply, Australia crumbled for 151 as Bumrah claimed 6-33. India’s second innings of 106-8 declared gave the touring team a 398-run advantage.
Australia captain Tim Paine said he expected the Sydney pitch to take turn, as the home side consider including Queensland’s Labuschagne to partner offspinner Nathan Lyon.
“It’s probably going to be pretty dry and will spin quite a bit I’d imagine,” Paine said.
Cricket Australia’s decision to ban Steve Smith and David Warner for a year over their roles in the ball-tampering affair in Cape Town in March has left the team’s batting ranks severely weakened.
It’s the first time since 1991-92 that an Australian player has not scored a test century during the home summer before the January test in Sydney.
“We were just outplayed and India deserved to win this test,” Paine said.
Paine said Australia’s inexperienced batting lineup was “learning on the job.”
The only Australia player to score a half-century in the Melbourne test was No. 8 Cummins.
“At the moment it’s challenging and everyone’s frustrated,” Paine said.
Opener Aaron Finch (eight and three) and No.6 Mitch Marsh (nine and 10) were particularly poor in the Melbourne test and could face the axe.