The Test match that for so many days seemed impossible to ponder ended in a fashion few will forget as Nathan Lyon bowled his team to a 48-run victory that destiny appeared duty bound to deliver but then seemed hellbent on withholding.
After Australia’s dual declarations left India with a task of scoring 364 from today’s minimum of 98 overs, the tourists looked set to defy history and sentiment on the back of captain Virat Kohli’s heroic last-day innings of 141.
But finding themselves heading into the Test’s final session needing 159 runs from 37 overs and with eight wickets up their sleeves, India lost their nerve and their way in a chaotic final two hours in which they surrendered 8-73 in a tick beyond 26 overs.
The final wicket, fittingly a Brad Haddin stumping that gave Lyon a career-best 12 wickets for the Test, triggered a spontaneous, joyous celebration from the Australian players where their fallen teammate Phillip Hughes Test number 408 was emblazoned on the turf.
It was fitting because those who were first at Hughes’s side when he was hit – Player of the Match Lyon and Haddin as well as Shane Watson and David Warner – had been integral in the way the match unfolded in Australia’s favour for all but two sessions on the final day.
The significant concern among the poignant jubilation was the sight of Michael Clarke hobbling among his teammates having watched the decisive final hours unfold from an uncomfortable distance.
Clarke appeared to badly damage his right hamstring while fielding this afternoon and was immediately whisked to a local hospital for scans.
He took no further part in the match and his involvement in the remainder of the Commonwealth Bank Test series is under a heavy cloud.
“I’ve just had a scan, and the results are not fantastic,” Clarke said at match’s end.
“The experts are looking at it now but I’m going to struggle to take any further part in this series.
“I’m obviously very disappointed.”
Kohli’s impact on the first of this four-Test Commonwealth Bank Series was matched only by his rival batsman and verbal sparring partner Warner.
In his first Test as India captain, with incumbent skipper MS Dhoni watching from the dressing room as he recovers from a fractured thumb, Kohli proved that he can be mature and not simply mercurial when the situation demands.
And on a final-day Adelaide pitch against a motivated, full-strength Australian attack it was indeed a demanding situation.
Not only did Kohli become just the second Test captain, after Australia’s Greg Chappell, to hit hundreds in each innings of their debut turn as skipper, he recorded his highest Test score and carried his team within sight of a win that seemed unthinkable for most of the match.
When he and opener Murali Vijay lock-stepped to 99 in a third-wicket partnership that spanned 50 overs and 185 runs, it seemed that Clarke’s overnight declaration might bite him in absentia.
But in a hectic final hour or so that seems part of the perennial Adelaide script, Vijay’s removal one short of his hundred triggered a free-fall of Indian wickets.
Among those many memorable scenes in the final act, two effectively conveyed the contrasting heroes and villains.
When Wriddhiman Saha, the last Indian batsman before the arrival of the bowlers, launched himself at Lyon (having already blasted a six and a boundary earlier in the over) and was spectacularly bowled, Kohli was forced to turn his back on his teammate and his team’s dressing room, such was his disbelief.
Which spared him having to witness Lyon’s sprint and arm-flailing pirouette into the arms of his euphoric pals as he celebrated the first 10-wicket bag of a career that has now climbed a further rung.
Then, in Lyon’s next over, Kohli’s four-and-a-half hour vigil ended when he tried to muscle a short ball to the midwicket fence, failed to keep it down and was then forced to watch in agony as Mitchell Marsh clung awkwardly to the chance just inside the rope.
So bereft was the Indian skipper that by the time Lyon bounded to his teammate, was joined by the other Australians and the ritual high-fiving and back-slapping compeleted, Kohli remained hunched over his bat at the crease, staring at the ground and unable to take himself anywhere.
India had earlier cause to feel aggrieved - although their reluctance to cede on-field decisions to off-field technology rendered it a self-inflicted wound – when opener Shikhar Dhawan was adjudged caught behind at the start of the day’s fifth over.
Dhawan, who loomed as India’s equivalent to David Warner given his foot-to-the-floor approach to batting, believed he had done well to negotiate a spot-on Johnson bouncer by dropping his gloves and having it strike him high on the right bicep.
But English umpire Ian Gould interpreted events differently and ordered him back to the dressing room, the absence of an appeals court only heightening the feisty left-hander’s palpable sense of injustice.
As the day ground on, that air of feeling repeatedly and unfairly wronged drifted from the visitors’ dressing room and hung heavily over that of the home team.
As Lyon sent down over after over from the Riverbank end, searching for the footmarks Indian quick Ishant Sharma had so benevolently dug for him, his battle became as much with resident South African umpire Marais Erasmus as it was with India’s unflappable top-order.
Lyon announced himself as the force India needed to negotiate from the time he was tossed the ball for the day’s eighth over, immediately landing in the indentations and triggering uncertainty and anxiety in the right-handed batsmen.
He was convinced he had Vijay on 24 when the opener bravely played back then offered no shot to one that spun back and seemed to all but umpire Erasmus that it was bound for the upper part of middle and leg.
It was one of two or three appeals the Australia spinner launched each over, each of them slapped down for the best part of an hour until Cheteshwar Pujara stood tall and prodded at a delivery that feathered an edge and prompted an exuberant celebration from Brad Haddin when he pouched the sharp chance.
That was the Australians’ sole success for the next 50 overs as the ‘unsuccessful lbw shouts’ column spilled over, along with the frustration of many on the fielding team sweltering without their captain on a glaring Adelaide afternoon.
The fact that, by tea on the fifth day, not a single lbw had been given partly vindicated those who claim the use of drop-in pitches and their capacity to retain moisture and shape within their concrete shells means they don’t deteriorate and offer the widely variable bounce of those back in the day.
It potentially offered even stronger justification for those, including a quorum of Australian Test players, who believe the Decision Review System must be employed unilaterally or not at all.
But as so often happens in the final stretch of an Adelaide Oval Test, that all changed in a twinkle.
The arrival of Kohli’s century was followed immediately by Vijay’s failure to follow suit, the incomprehensibility that Erasmus would wait until he was on 99 to finally grant a leg before confirmed by his refusal to leave the crease for some seconds after he was fired.
Five balls later it was Ajinkya Rahane’s time to air incredulity, judged caught at short leg from a Lyon delivery that appeared to ricochet from the knee roll of the batsman’s pad alone, and the door the Australians had sought to open all day prised slightly ajar.
At the same time the chorus of support for an emotional home team victory, and another equally vociferous for a truly universal implementation of technology to aid umpires and improve the game, echoed into a gripping final hour.