India clinched the Test series against a spirited Australia with their biggest-ever margin after recording a nerve-wracking six-wicket victory in the third cricket Test to take a 3-0 lead in the four-match series at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium in Mohali on Monday.
Never in their 81-year-old Test history, have India won more than two matches against Australia in a single series. After bowling out Australia for 223 in their second innings, India chased down the target of 133 with 15 balls remaining before close of play in a match which saw a nail-biting finish.
The hosts encountered some tense moments in their run chase before skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni smashed three fours off Mitchell Clarke in a row to seal the match in India's favour much to the delight of the home crowd. In the process, India reclaimed the Border-Gavaskar trophy, which they relinquished after a 0-4 drubbing in Australia last year.
Excluding the one-off Test victory way back in 1996, this was the fifth time India have won the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
The victory was all the more creditable as it came in four days after rain washed out the opening day's play without a ball being bowled. Debutant Shikhar Dhawan was judged Man of the Match for his whirlwind 187.
There was some artificial excitement in the last hour when India made heavy weather of the target. Eventually, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (18 not out) took the team home, hitting three consecutive fours with 2.3 overs left.
India started with Murali Vijay (26) and Cheteshwar Pujara (28) as first-innings century-maker Shikhar Dhawan injured his finger while fielding and did not come out to bat. The duo added 42 runs for the first wicket before VIjay was stumped by Brad Haddin off left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty.
Then Pujara and Virat Kohli (34) added 28 runs for the second-wicket before Nathan Lyon trapped Pujara leg-before.
During his knock, Pujara, who opened the innings in place of Dhawan, who could not take to the field on the final day due to an injury on his left knuckle, completed 1000 runs in the country to become the 34th Indian to achieve the landmark.
Kohli hit some crisp fours, but run-making was not easy as fast bowlers Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc kept a tight line, using reverse swing to good effect. Siddle got rid of the well-set Kohli, whose mistimed flick ended up in the hands of a diving Phil Hughes at short mid-wicket.
With 17 required off the last four overs, Sachin Tendulkar (21) was run out after a brilliant effort from David Warner. Ravindra Jadeja (8 not out) hit two fours in the same over to ease the pressure and left it to Dhoni to finish off in style.
Earlier, Jadeja (3/35) and Pragyan Ojha's left-arm spin (2/26) ran through the Australian middle order with offie Ravichandran Ashwin chipping in with two, including the wicket of top scorer Phil Jacques, who struck form with a gritty 69.
Ojha and Jadeja bowled in tandem as Australia lost five wickets for 54 runs. Ojha was the first to strike to get rid of night-watchman Nathan Lyon (18), caught behind by Dhoni.
Earlier, Doherty and Starc's spirited effort could only delay the inevitable, as there was just enough time for the hosts to fashion a comfortable win.
Left-arm spinner Jadeja was once again the most effective bowler for the hosts, returning with impressive figures of three for 35 his all three wickets, including that of Australian skipper Michael Clarke, coming on the final day.
There were two wickets apiece for fellow left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and off-break bowler Ravichandran Ashwin.
Ashwin leads the wickets tally in the series with 22 scalps, followed by Jadeja who has 17 to his name, reflecting the Indian spinners' dominance.
Young paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar had taken three wickets on Sunday evening to rock the Australian top-order.
India grabbed the remaining seven Australian wickets in the first two sessions while giving away 148 runs runs.
In the morning, Jadeja picked up the wickets of Henriques and Clarke -- this was the fifth time in six outings in the series that the Saurashtra player had taken the Australian skipper's wicket.
He then came back to pack off the innings by claiming Starc's wicket.
After night-watchman Lyon was caught behind off Ojha for the day's first wicket in the innings' 28th over, in walked Clarke, who demoted himself in the batting order due to a recurring sore back.
Clarke survived 49 balls for his 18 while hitting three boundaries, before Jadeja got his 'bunny', caught at forward short-leg by Pujara who held on the catch after the Aussie got an inside edge onto his pads.
There was some confusion over his dismissal, but the field umpire checked with the third umpire to clear his doubts as Clarke trudged back to the pavilion.
In deep hole at 119 for five, and with their captain gone, Hughes got a poor decision from Aleem Dar which added to Australia's woes. Ravichandran Ashwin's delivery struck Hughes on the pads but the ball had pitched outside leg stump line and didn't look like straightening enough to hit the stumps.
Woefully out of form prior to this innings, Hughes dug in for 165 minutes before becoming a victim of the bad decision. He struck 11 fours and a six during his 147-ball knock.
Jadeja then pulled off a blinder to dismiss Henriques. After luring the batsman to go for the shot, Jadeja stretched full-length to his left to pull off a diving catch.
But the tailenders stitched two stubborn stands to carry Australia past the 200-run mark. Brad Haddin (30) and Starc (35) added 36 runs for the ninth wicket while Starc and Doherty (18) contributed valuable 44 runs for the last wicket.
India will now push for a clean sweep when the fourth and final final Test starts in New Delhi from Friday.