The Ben Stokes-sized ghost that still haunts Australia from Headingley returned to Brisbane on Tuesday afternoon as another swash-buckling left-handed hitter, with courage and conviction, powered his side to a remarkably unlikely victory.

This time, though, Rishabh Pant would not only condemn the Aussies to losing the match, but also losing the series – a result that’s being dubbed India’s greatest Test series win ever.

After Shubman Gill (91) set the tone and Cheteshwar Pujara (77) formed the backbone, Pant, 23, showed maturity beyond his years to produce one of his country’s greatest fourth-innings knocks and carry India to a three-wicket victory at the Gabba on the final day of the final Test of a gripping series.

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Despite the enormity of the target (329) and the stakes, the keeper-batsman didn’t tweak his style, playing with his quintessential flare and dare to finish 89 not out off just 138 balls in a man-of-the-match innings that included nine fours and one six.

Pant’s gladiatorial knock came just over a week after another blistering fourth-innings counter-attack at the SCG, where he bludgeoned 97 off 113 balls to give India a chance at an even more unlikely win before the match eventually finished in a draw.

India celebrate the impossible!

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“He plays one way: Fearless cricket,” legendary Aussie batsman Michael Hussey told Fox Cricket.

As former Aussie leg-spinner Kerry O’Keeffe pointed out post-match, Pant played with the same courage and conviction as Stokes did in the 2019 Ashes when the Englishman clobbered the high-class Aussie attack to all corners of the Leeds venue to finish 135 not out and lead his side to an unforgettable one-wicket win.

Rishabh Pant, superstar. Just made differently.

— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) January 19, 2021

If there was any hesitancy beforehand, Pant’s arrival at the crease clearly shifted gears from batting out the draw to going for the throat. It was almost if he single-handedly made a decision to aggressively pursue victory of his own volition.

Despite ample risk to playing so aggressively chasing a bit total on the final day of a Test, Pant’s top priority remained an Indian win.

The 8 balls that swung the Test

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“Ben Stokes did it to Australia at Headingley – a fearless left-hander who hits across the line – and Rishabh Pant has done it here at the Gabba,” O’Keeffe told Fox Cricket. “Australia had nothing left in the end because of Rishabh Pant.

“The softening up was done by Pujara – he was outstanding – but it was the hitting and the cleanliness of the strokeplay from Rishabh Pant – this much-doubted left-hander who didn’t start the series and only came in after the all-out 36.

Rishabh Pant, the game of cricket salutes you today

— Shai Hope (@shaidhope) January 19, 2021

“He could’ve won it in Sydney, he said ‘I didn’t win it there but I’ll win it at the Gabba’. This is the champion of the day, who can hit it to all parts of the ground, who’s fearless against pace bowling, who hits spinners across the line and over long-on for six.

“He’s taken on the best quartet of bowlers in world cricket and he’s brought them down. It’s an extraordinary victory.”

A humble Pant couldn’t wipe the smile off his face when he was interviewed by Fox Cricket post-game.

“The team management always backs me and tells me that ‘you are match-winner and you always have to go and win the match for the team’. That’s the only thing I keep on thinking every day: That I want to win matches for India – and I’m happy that I did it today,” he said.

India claim incredible series win

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Pant wasn’t part of the Indian side that was humiliated in the first Test against Adelaide, which included the side being infamously bowled out by Australia for a paltry 36. But since his inclusion, he brought an invaluable dynamic to the India’s batting line-up.

In fact, Pant finished the series as India’s leading run-scorer – despite playing one less game than Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane – with 274 runs at an average of 68.5 and strike rate of 69.9.

“I think this is one of the biggest things in (my) life right now,” he said.

Okay then….let’s say this one more time. Rishabh Pant should be playing for India in all three formats too. He’s reminded us that let’s not lose patience with him. How blooody good has he been….!!! A game-changer. #AusvInd

— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) January 19, 2021

“I’m happy that all the support staff from the team and all the fans over here supported me a lot, even though I wasn’t playing in the starting matches.

“It’s been a dream series. After not playing the first Test match, I’ve been practising hard and everything pays off because we won the series.”



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