India Ends The Streak

India deservedly won a pulsating 3rd test by 72 runs in Perth today to end Australia’s winning streak at 16 matches.

Resuming at 65 for two in search of an all-but-world record 413 for victory, Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey took the score to 113 before Ishant Sharma capped off an inspired spell of fast bowling by capturing the vital scalp of the Australian skipper Ponting with one which held it’s line, leading to a comfortable catch to Rahul Dravid at first slip. The wicket was no more than Sharma deserved. His spell this morning was more in keeping with that of a seasoned veteran than that of a 19 year old whelp. He repeatedly troubled Ponting in particular, having several close shouts for lbw turned down, mostly due to the bounce in the WACA wicket. Rarely can Ponting have worked as hard for 45 runs at Test level.

Michael Clarke then joined Hussey and the two saw Australia safely through to lunch at 142 for three from only 40 overs, with Clarke in particular playing with a freedom not seen from any of his team mates throughout the Test. For his part, Hussey reverted to his old opening role, letting a lot of deliveries go on length, accustomed as he is to the bounce of his home pitch.

Not long after lunch, however, Hussey was crucially trapped in front by R P Singh to one which appeared on replay to have been marginally too high. Nevertheless, the ball struck him in line and the wicket was no more than just reward for an Indian attack which continued to work manfully, despite the ball not swinging as much as it had in Australia’s first innings. When Andrew Symonds followed Hussey back to the pavilion for only 12, Australia was teetering at 177 for five, and the target was as remote as Perth itself is from every other major city in the world. Symonds’ dismissal was a vital strike for Indian captain Anil Kumble, who had just been blasted for six by the muscular Aussie all rounder. Kumble bowled a flatter, quicker ball which caught Symonds on the crease. Replays revealed Symonds had clipped an inside edge into his pads, however, the Indian appeal was both spontaneous and heart-felt. Whilst Symonds may have been unlucky today, he would acknowledge that he has had more than his share of luck in recent times.

Despite the double blow to Australia’s chances, Clarke continued to play freely. His driving to the seamers was first class, whilst his foot work to Kumble was also a feature of an innings which belied the tense state of the game. Just as Clarke and Adam Gilchrist began to swing the game back towards some parity, Kumble produced one of those bowling changes which end up in cricketing yore, calling on Virender Sehwag to bowl some part-time off spin. As a ploy it was novel, but it proved brutally effective. Sehwag soon bowled Gilchrist around his legs on the sweep-shot for 15, and pandemonium broke loose. At 227 for 6, Australia were now in a massive hole, which was dug only deeper two runs later when Bret Lee fell to a bat-pad chance, again off Sehwag for a most untimely duck. The match now appeared India’s in a canter, as Australia limped to tea at 243 for 7.

Now batting with the tail, Clarke had no choice but to continue to press his shots and it was to prove his undoing. He jumped down the track to Kumble, whose leg break turned far more than usual and bounced as much as expected from this great leg spinner. Clarke was left stranded, and the dismissal was nearly a run out rather than a stumping. It was an embarrassing end to a great knock – one which will much enhance Clarke’s reputation – sometimes that which is accomplished in defeat can perversely transcend one’s achievements in victory.

India now circled to deliver the coup de grace, but they didn’t back on a whirlwind ninth wicket stand of 73 between Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark, scored in only 12.5 overs. Johnson in particular was severe on Kumble and all of the pace bowlers. For the first time in the match, India fell for the old WACA trick – dropping too short. It took a fuller ball from Irfan Pathan to undo Clark, who wafted at a ball outside off stump and was caught behind for a well struck 32 from 35 balls faced. With Johnson approaching his first Test 50, Shaun Tait managed to hang around for his partner’s milestone. He and Johnson (50 not out) added 14 for the last wicket before Singh produced a full, swinging ball which bowled Tait off his pads.

So ended a triumph for India, and for Anil Kumble in particular. In this match he picked his side up from the disappointment of Sydney; took four wickets on a pitch not usually suited to spinners; became the only the third man to claim 600 test wickets; and led India to only its fifth ever win in Australia. It was a tribute to India’s unheralded pace bowlers; to the determination of Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar in their first innings, and to VVS Laxman, M S Dhoni and R P Singh in their second. India out-bowled and out-thought Australia, halting a juggernaut in its tracks and denying it a world record. The enthusiastic-to-put-it-mildly celebration at the match’s conclusion was hard won and well deserved.

For Australia, this match failed to live up to its hype. For all the talk in recent days about the apparent failure of its four-pronged pace attack, the bowlers took 20 wickets in the match for 624 runs. In anyone’s language, they hardly copped a pasting. The problems for Australia were with their first innings batting. Sans Matthew Hayden, the top order was fragile, and shot selection let the side down badly. The second innings effort was much better, but the damage had by then been done. Of the bowlers, only the luckless Tait went wicket less and in this regard it appears that team management has not learned from past mistakes. Like Brett Lee, Andy Bichel and Michael Kasprowicz before him, Tait was made twelfth man at the start of the summer, and had not played a first class game in nearly six weeks before his call-up. Little wonder then that the big pace man struggled for rhythm and consistency.

By contrast, this match was a triumph for the returning Irfan Pathan, who captured five wickets for the match and made an invaluable 46 at number three in the second innings. His contribution was invaluable, and he will be hard to leave out for the Adelaide Test next weekend.

Four years ago, India beat Australia there in another memorable match-up. The way this series has gone thus far, anything could happen this time around.


India 330 & 294
Australia 212 and 340
by 72 runs.

Australia leads four match series 2-1.

Man of the Match Irfan Pathan (India)

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