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Cricket-India retain Border-Gavaskar Trophy, savour WTC final spot

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) -India maintained their vice-like grip on the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a 2-1 series victory against Australia after the fourth and final test ended in a stalemate on Monday.

The icing on the cake was a place in the final of the World Test Championship (WTC) against Australia in June albeit with a little favour from New Zealand earlier in the day.

Kane Williamson helped New Zealand pull off a last-ball thriller in Christchurch, dashing Sri Lanka's hopes of making the WTC final with a 2-0 series sweep against Tim Southee's men.

It was India's 16th consecutive test series victory on home soil and they have held the Border-Gavaskar Trophy since 2016-17.

India had put themselves in an unbeatable position with a first-innings lead of 91 but their chances of a third victory in the series hinged on an Australia collapse.

But the pitch at Narendra Modi Stadium, where only 21 wickets fell in five days, did not deteriorate as much as their spinners would have liked.

Travis Head smashed 90 and forged a 139-run stand with Marnus Labuschagne, who made 63 not out, to steer Australia to safety before the teams agreed on a draw.

"It was a really hard fought series," India coach Rahul Dravid said.

"Australia is a very good team. They've come here well prepared, they are the number one side in the world.

"To be able to compete with them, to be able to get the better of them, even though it was in our conditions... I couldn't be prouder."

With a draw looming in Ahmedabad, Dravid said they were following the match in Christchurch.

"Nice also to make the World Test Championship final.

"It's not easy. Over two years, you got to produce results home and away."

India milked their home advantage against Australia and rolled out raging turners that suited their spinners.

Each of the first three tests ended inside three days, prompting criticism of the pitches where spinners from both sides ruled the roost.

The pitch in Ahmedabad proved another extreme where only 21 wickets fell in five days before the contest petered out to a dull draw.

It has been a tough tour for Australia, who were laid low by a series of injury and other issues.

Quick Mitchell Starc and all-rounder Cameron Green missed the first two tests with finger injuries, while paceman Josh Hazlewood returned home without playing a match.

Their off-colour opener David Warner fractured his elbow in the second test and returned home ending a poor series.

Regular skipper Pat Cummins also flew home after the second test to be with his ailing mother who passed away last week leaving Smith in charge of a battered squad.

Smith felt their defeat despite initially dominating the second test in Delhi hurt them in the series.

"Guys were pretty upset with the way we went away from our methods in that game, it was disappointing," Smith said.

"Obviously at that point we knew there was plenty to still play for in the series and guys responded really well and as a group we are proud of the way we bounced back and play some good cricket in the last couple of test matches."

Virat Kohli was adjudged player-of-the-match for his painstaking 186, his first test hundred since November 2019.

Spin team mates Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja shared the player-of-the-series award.

The teams will now clash in a three-match one-day series beginning in Mumbai on Friday.

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Peter Rutherford and John Stonestreet and Christian Radnedge)