Whether it is the beginning of Australia’s slide is debatable, but India’s 172-run victory in the fourth and final Test to wrap up the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a 2-0 margin is certainly a sign of things to come.
Australia were bowled out for 209 in a thrilling final day of a riveting Test series, which lasted all of two hours. The start of the day was ominous for India as a spirited run chase of 382 ensued, but Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra shared seven wickets between them to hasten Australia’s collapse as the visitors lost their last seven wickets for 59 runs.
Australia had made their intentions clear on the fourth day itself as only a win in the match would help them retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, with the odds of an Indian win or a draw completely out of question. But India began the fifth and final day with a sweeper to not give away boundaries. If Australia had to chase down 382, boundaries would make a large part of their scoring.
The first two wickets were a result of getting too much too soon. Simon Katich fell in this bid when he fetched an Ishant Sharma delivery from way outside off to hoick it over leg, but only managed to edge it on to the wicketkeeper for 16. Ricky Ponting, on the other hand, was eager to get off strike; his run-out, effected by a diving Amit Mishra at mid-on, repeated the same mistake made by Hayden in the first innings.
Michael Clarke walked out in the middle with a runner due to general illness, but his foot movement remained up to scratch. But after three sumptuous hits to the fence, Ishant Sharma had him caught behind with another peach.
In a game oscillating between flurry of runs and heaps of wickets with a highly tactical day split right down the middle, the hour after lunch produced Test cricket at its very best. Hayden refused to be cowed down, and went after Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag despite their ploy to repeatedly bowl at his legs after reaching his half-century. He put the slog sweep to great use, before hammering Sehwag over wide long on for six.
If anyone were to take the game away, it had to be Hayden. The big Australian opener had added 68 with Hussey, but Mr Cricket merely looked a mere spectator as Hayden went berserk, panic spashing across the VCA like a heat wave in Vidarbha.
Dhoni had no option but to go to his leg-spinner Amit Mishra, as it is not bowling him aearlier seemed bizarre, with the rough outside the left-hander’s off-stump there to bowl at. It worked. Mishra got the fourth ball of his first over to take off – maybe his version of the Jumbo – Hussey could do nothing but fend it off to Dravid at first slip.
Another batting collapse was only a matter of when, and as the first session had already dented the Australian batting, Hussey’s wicket triggered what became inevitable. Matthew Hayden walked across his stumps to work the ball away to leg only to be trapped plumb in front to Harbhajan for 77. Australia might have argued they had to go for a win, but their first five wickets had fallen inside 30 overs.
Wickets continued to fall in tandem from either end. Every wicket of Mishra was followed by one from Harbhajan. Whether they combined or were rivals on either end of the pitch was irrelevant.
Emotions don’t hold sway when cricket is being played, rather fought. Lack of emotion, even bordering on lack of a certain spirit was in question with negative tactics. Australia were trumped by a ruthless India. The four-Test series was India’s with a 2-0 margin as the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was won back after four years.