Australia performed better than expected but could not avert a defeat © IANS
Australia performed better than expected but could not avert a defeat © IANS

For a team that had lost all of its last 9 Tests in the Indian subcontinent, Australia probably did better than what was expected. On a wicket crafted specifically to massacre the visiting side, Australia sprang a huge surprise by conjuring up a monumental 333-run victory at Pune against an in-form India, handing them their first Test defeat since 2015. A win on a wicket on which either side failed to cross the 300-run mark was a certificate of hard work done before the tour. Australia expected and prepared well to bat time on fifth-day wickets, something they failed to pull off at Bengaluru. They saved the third Test on a flat Ranchi track. Australia fought hard till the end, but an abasing collapse in the second innings all but sealed their fate at Dharamsala. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs Australia, 4th Test at Dharamsala

Steven Smith continued to prove why he is the best batsman in Test cricket by a long margin. His 499 runs at 71.28 were studded with 3 centuries. Each time the Australian captain crossed the 50-run mark, a century ensured. Australia lost Mitchell Starc halfway through the series. Despite promising starts, David Warner missed out on his big scores; and while Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon did brilliantly, their form wore off as the series progressed. Let us take a look at how each Australian player fared on this tour of India:

David Warner: 3/10 (193 runs in 4 Tests at 24.21, 1 half-century)

‘The Bull’ was tamed in India. Warner’s ordinary record in the Indian subcontinent continued to pose questions. He adapted. He brought changes to his technique and approach to get runs in India. He mellowed down and put a heavy price on his wicket. However, none of it worked for Warner, who managed a mere half-century in 8 innings (that too after being dropped in the first ball of the Test) despite reaching double-figures every single time. In the second innings at Bengaluru and Dharamsala, his meek dismissals compounded pressure on Australia. He gets an extra half mark for his efforts in the field.

Matt Renshaw finished as Australia's second highest run-scorer © IANS
Matt Renshaw finished as Australia’s second highest run-scorer © IANS

Matthew Renshaw: 6/10 (232 runs in 4 Tests at 29, 2 half-centuries)

Playing his first-ever series away from home and first in India, Renshaw did a better job than what his numbers would suggest. He looked to spend a lot of time at the wicket — something Smith wanted from him — but looked spent towards the end, which was something not expected of a man fresh out of his teens. He began with an impressive fifty in Pune, followed it up with another in Bengaluru, and outscored Warner during their stand at Ranchi. He dropped two catches in the final Test at Dharamsala; both were costly misses and had impacts on the outcome of the series. Nevertheless, Renshaw will have a lot to take away from his first overseas series, wherein he finished behind only his captain in runs.

Steven Smith cracked three centuries © IANS
Steven Smith cracked three centuries © IANS

Steven Smith: 10/10 (499 runs in 4 Tests at 71.28, 3 centuries)

Always in thick of things, the greatest batsman in contemporary cricket (and a man already elevated to the league of legends) led Australia from the front but could not carry them past the finish line. Smith was expected to score heavily and he did exactly that. He scored 3 centuries in the series while nobody else got more than 1. Smith dominated the Indian bowlers in their backyard in a manner only he can, displaying water-tight technique against spinners and walking across the wickets to work the ball for many runs off fast bowlers.

Smith embarrassed himself when he looked up to the Australian dressing-room when he was in doubts about appealing for the DRS at Bengaluru. No apology was enough to pacify the enraged Indian fans who had been fed with the word ‘cheater’ without Virat Kohli actually saying it.

Smith did earn some brownie points when he apologised for losing composure in an intense series after it was over. However, his comments might have been a reaction to an instance that took place on Day Three, when he was filmed allegedly accusing Murali Vijay of being a ‘f**king cheat’.

Shaun Marsh: 5/10 (151 runs in 4 Tests at 18.87, 2 half-centuries)

With only one innings of substance, the senior Marsh had a rather poor outing in India. He had replaced Usman Khawaja — Australia’s No. 3 for a very long time — on the promise of big runs in India which actually never came. Instead, Marsh batted out of his skin on the final day of the Ranchi Test to deny India a win. The question of his fitness also lingered on for long, and Marsh ultimately picked up one in the Dharamsala Test, which did not allow him to bat with freedom.

Peter Handscomb: 7/10 (198 runs in 4 Tests at 28.28, 1 half-century)

Numbers will say Handscomb had an ordinary series, but with 7 scores in double-figures in 8 innings, he was perhaps one of the most impressive. Handscomb is considered one of the best players of spin in Australia, something which he proved when he faced 200 balls and batted for two sessions at Ranchi save his side from a possible defeat.

His splendid catching was the reason Australia were able to push for a massive victory in the first innings of the Pune Test for which he gets an extra mark. While Handscomb continued to field around the bat and kept getting starts, he could never convert them into greater success. Despite that, he finished as the third highest run-getter for Australia behind Smith and Renshaw.

Glenn Maxwell: 7/10 (159 runs in 2 Tests at 39.75, 1 century)

A first-innings century at Ranchi — his maiden ton on Test comeback — highlighted Maxwell’s credentials for red-ball cricket. The century was a strong statement from a player who had fought with his state captain (Matthew Wade, Victoria) over batting position and was criticised by Darren Lehmann for not getting enough First-Class centuries to claim for a Test spot.

Maxwell showed application, skills, temperament and application — qualities necessary for a successful Test batsman — in the final two Tests that he played. When Australia were cornered by India with a flurry of wickets at Dharamsala, Maxwell earned them some run.

An extra mark for Maxwell for picking the Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav and hitting him out of the attack in the second innings and for his two direct hits on the final morning.

Mitchell Marsh: 2/10 (48 runs in 2 Tests at 12, no wickets)

Ridiculed all along for his cricketing skills, Mitchell actually made some contribution and bowed out with an injury. His partnership with Smith in Australia’s second innings at Pune was extremely crucial from Australia’s perspective to build lead. However, he was hardly used as a bowler.

Matthew Wade: 6/10 (196 runs in 4 Tests at 32.66, 1 half-century)

For a firebrand wicketkeeper who chirps behind the wickets endlessly, Wade did well to get some crucial runs as well. He showed tremendous patience and application against the Indian spinners, which could help him to prolong his stay in the Australian Test side and keep Peter Nevill out of the competition. He swept Indian spinners with aplomb, and barring Smith, was the only one to pick Kuldeep’s googlies on the first morning at Dharamsala. However, a better job behind the wickets would have consolidated his claim as he struggled on the spinning wickets.

Australia missed Mitchell Starc in the second half of the series © IANS
Australia missed Mitchell Starc in the second half of the series © IANS

Mitchell Starc: 9/10 (118 runs in 2 Tests at 29.50, 1 half-century; 5 wickets)

Starc’s exit took some amount of excitement out of the series, but not the venom in the Australian pace attack halfway through the series. Despite that he stamped his mark on the tour. In the first Test, his half-century pushed Australia from a precarious 205 for 9 to a respectable 260 at Pune; then he handed Kohli his first duck in years; at Bengaluru he got Australia right back into the game with the second new ball, dismissing Ajinkya Rahane and Karun Nair, the latter being something that will stay with those on the Australian side for long.

Nathan Lyon: 7/10 (19 wickets in 4 Tests at 25.26, 31 runs)

He had already become Australia’s leading wicket-taker against India, but that did not stop from pulling off a couple of lion-hearted efforts. The seam of the SG ball was not kind on his fingers as he lost a lot of skin to grip it and give good revs, and Lyon got through the tour with the help of a lot of glue which he applied while bowling.

At Bengaluru he registered the best figures for an Australian against India when he recorded 8 for 50. However, law of averages caught up, and Lyon could not get even a single breakthrough in the 33 overs he bowled in the second essay. Not to be let down, he added another five-wicket haul at Dharamsala.

Steve O’ Keefe: 7/10 (19 wickets in 4 Tests at 23.26, 45 runs)

The architect of Australia’s remarkable win at Pune, O’Keefe remained in search of wickets for the remainder of the series. At Pune, he claimed identical numbers of 6 for 35 to hand India their biggest shock defeat, but since then in the next three Test, O’Keefe got a mere 7 more. Three of these came his way in a marathon bowling effort at Ranchi, when he sent down 77 out of Australia’s record 210 overs to claim 3 for 199.

It was surprising to see O’Keefe not getting as many wickets as he got in Pune, where he used a turning wicket to bamboozle Indians in their own trick. Just like the opposition batsmen in India, the Indian batsmen failed to pick his straighter delivery. O’Keefe may have just played his last Test for some time, but and he would cherish having played some high-intensity cricket.

Josh Hazlewood: 6/10 (9 wickets in 4 Tests at 32.77, 6 runs)

Hazlewood joined the trend of taking a 6-for when he rattled India at Bengaluru in the second innings. He is known for his disciplined bowling around the off-stump, feasting on the batsmen’s patience and technique. He claimed Murali Vijay twice in the series.

He moved the ball dangerously both off the pitch, using the seam to his benefit. He generated prodigious swing which tested the batsmen to the hilt, but got a mere 9 wickets in 4 Tests, which is something Australia would perhaps not expected.

Pat Cummins: 8/10 (8 wickets in 2 Tests at 30.25, 33 runs)

At the end of it all, the cricket fraternity would be hoping that one of the fiercest but injury-prone bowlers stays fit and enjoys a long career.

Australia looked set to be missing the aggression which only Starc could get, but doubters were proven wrong when Cummins bent his back that extra bit, made the ball shoot off the surface dangerously, and bounced out three out of four batsmen on a benign Ranchi wicket which had zilch for the bowlers.

He was looked upon with high hopes immediately, and the edges that he found off two batsmen whose contribution eventually dealt the final blow on Australia at Dharamsala, could have made a big difference had they been grabbed.

Cummins is a special talent; if he could make aggressive Indians like KL Rahul retort to curb strokeplay, one can only imagine what he can be capable of on the bouncy wickets of Australia and South Africa. We already have got the glimpse of the latter, however.