Mohammed Siraj's story in the past few weeks has been nothing short of inspirational. The pacer lost his father while he with the Indian team, when it was participating in the limited-overs series in Australia. He wasn't in the T20I or ODI squad, but made the tough decision to stay in Australia, given the strict bio-secure protocols in place.
An injury to Mohammed Shami proved blessing in disguise for Siraj as he made his Test debut in the Boxing Day match at Melbourne.
It was a fine debut for Siraj, as he took five wickets in the game. But it wasn't the performances in the cricket field which proved irksome for the pacer; Siraj faced racial abuse from a section of fans at the Sydney Cricket Ground earlier this month. The former players and fans have since lauded Siraj's strong reaction to racism, as he complained on the same to the umpires on the Day 4 of the Tets, eventually leading to the abusers being led out of the stadium.
Despite a number of hardships, Siraj continued to be at his best in terms of performances. In the final Test, Siraj, who was only two-Tests old, became the most senior pacer in the Indian XI -- thanks to the long list of injuries in the squad. And boy, did he live up to the tag.
Siraj struck in the first over of the Test, dismissing the dangerous David Warner. It was his only wicket of the innings but he remained the most economical pacer in the Indian innings.
In the second innings, Siraj was rewarded for his patience, as he made the most of the final opportunity to bowl in Australia, ending the series with his maiden fifer in Test cricket. The pacer began with a double-strike in the 31st over of the Australian innings, which proved key to India's comeback in the game. He dismissed Marnus Labuschagne (25) and Matthew Wade (0), before breaking another 73-run stand to dismiss Steve Smith (55).
The Aussies did fight back, adding crucial runs through Tim Paine (27) and Cameron Green (37), but Shardul Thakur removed the duo as the visitors remained in the hunt.
In the end, it boiled down to the tussle between Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Siraj, as both remained on four wickets. Quite poetically, Thakur took the catch which gave Siraj his maiden five-wicket haul, as the pacer dismissed Josh Hazlewood on 9.
India require 328 runs to win in Brisbane and seal the four-match series. The side can also retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a draw.