(Reuters) – Australia beat India by 48 runs in a thrilling end to the first test at Adelaide Oval today, with Nathan Lyon picking up seven wickets after Virat Kohli scored an inspired century for the visitors.
A match that had begun in high emotion after the death last month of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes ended in high drama after an absorbing final day in South Australia.
Set 364 to win after Australia declared on their overnight score of 290-5, India seemed to be on their way to an unlikely victory after a brilliant 141 from Kohli and a gritty 99 from opener Murali Vijay.
But Lyon, a former groundsman at Adelaide Oval, turned the match the home team’s way with his offspinners, as India’s tail collapsed and the tourists were bowled out for 315.
“This first test is one we will remember and cherish for the rest of our careers,” Australia captain Michael Clarke said of the first match since the death of his good friend.
“He’s in our minds, he always will be. He will be for the rest of my life.
“Every test match you play for Australia you have a lot to play for but obviously this series is even closer to our hearts.”
Lyon finished with 7-152, giving him 12 wickets for the match, a career-best, and handing the Australians the early advantage in the four-match series which resumes in Brisbane next week.
Clarke will miss the rest of the series after injuring a hamstring while fielding on Saturday, the latest in a series of back and leg problems that have hampered the Australian skipper.
The 33-year-old hopes he can recover in time to play in the World Cup, which Australia is co-hosting early next year, but his recurring problems have caused him, to ponder his future.
“There’s a chance I may never play again,” Clarke said.
“I hope that’s not the case and I’ll be doing everything in my power to get back out on the park, but I have to be realistic as well.”
Kohli, filling in for Mahendra Singh Dhoni as India’s captain, almost won the match single-handedly for his country. He scored centuries in both innings and dominated Australia’s bowlers on a pitch favouring spin.
His career-best 141 came off just 175 deliveries and featured 16 fours and one six. He also shared a third wicket partnership of 185 with Vjay, who made half-centuries in each innings but fell agonisingly short of a deserved hundred.
With India seemingly in control at 242-2 after tea, Vijay suddenly had an attack of nerves and threw his wicket away with a rash attempt to reach triple figures, trapped lbw by Lyon after swiping at the ball.
His departure triggered a catastrophic batting collapse as India lost their last eight wickets for just 73 runs with Lyon the chief destroyer.
Kohli continued to play a lone hand but once he mistimed a pull shot and was caught in the deep, the end came quickly for the visitors.
“I’m really proud of the way the boys played,” Kohli said.
“At no point did we back off. And we are not going to back off either. If at any stage that we had in mind that we might play for a draw, we would have lost by 150 runs, to be honest.”