India completed what the rest of the cricketing world wanted them to do and that was to beat the formidable Aussies. With a historical 72-run win, India showed the world that the Aussies are no invincibles as they beat them fair and square under four days in their stronghold, Perth. Australia lost their first test on home soil since 2003! The last time they lost at home was against India as well. This victory for India also spoilt Ricky Ponting team’s dreams of setting a new world record of 17 consecutive test victories.
It wasn’t that there was one or two stand out performances from the Indians. It was a collective performance from both the seniors and the juniors that kept the Aussies down for three consecutive days. Irfan Pathan was given the Man of the Match award which could have gone to other players as well. Pathan had a crucial role to play taking five wickets and scoring a valuable 46 coming in as the night watchman along with 28 in the first innings. India needed eight wickets to win the test match when they started the fourth day’s play. The Aussies had a chance as well to win the match as long as they piled up the partnership; they needed 348 with 8 wickets standing at the start of the day’s play.
The overnight batsmen Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey concentrated very hard to give the much needed stability and at the same time got the target down steadily. India bowled well, they kept the pressure on and even if they didn’t take the wickets, they atleast made sure that the Australian pair didn’t run away with quick runs. The much needed breakthrough came India’s way in a sensational fashion. Ishant Sharma was in a long spell in which he got the ball to jag back a long way to keep on troubling Ricky Ponting. The world’s best batsman was made to dance by a 19-year-old rookie. Ishant after bowling 8 overs on the trot was going to be given a rest by Kumble but for the God-sent Virender Sehwag, who pushed his Captain to give one more over to Ishant with Ponting on strike. Kumble asked Ishant – “Ek aur over daalega?” and the rookie was more than happy to have a go at his bunny in this Test Match. Ponting was drawn on the frontfoot to a delivery that angled in, kicked up a bit and seamed away to find the edge and the rest was completed by Dravid at second slip. Ponting departed having made 45 (from 71 balls with 6 fours) in a partnership worth 74 with Mike Hussey.
India managed to pick up just that one wicket in the first session but that was as good as 3-4 wickets because of the significance of Ricky’ wicket. After lunch, RP Singh and India were just too lucky to find their next wicket which was that of Michael Hussey (46 from 113 with 5 fours). The left hander was beaten high on his pads by a reverse swinging inswinger from RP and innocent Asad Rauf went onto give another bad decision of this match! Next man Symonds came in and smashed Kumble for a six, but it was the Indian Captain having the last laugh. Symonds fell in the trap, he went back to a skidder at 102kmph and was struck low and right infront of the middle stump. Billy Bowden for the first time gave an lbw decision. Symonds (12) was devastated as he got an inside edge onto his pads which nobody else picked. As Sunil Gavaskar later commented that it was not the Umpire’s fault, but it was the ‘Silent Bat’ of Andrew Symonds that has to be blamed! It was the ‘Silent Bat’ that didn’t make any noise during the Sydney Test to fool Steve Bucknor and it was the same bat that didn’t make enough sound to alert Billy. Kumble celebrated that wicket with lot of expressions, infact he looked as if he was mimicking Symonds, the way he had celebrated Kumble’s wicket in the second innings!
Australia were out of the match, however they had the dangerous Gilchrist joining a soild looking Michael Clarke with their team at 177 for 5. And the whole world knows how dangerous Gilchrist can be, especially when he puts a ‘squash ball’ in his batting gloves! Whether that is fair or unfair is a debatable question but what it will do is that Gilchrist will hardly be getting any leading edges or mishits. Gilchrist looked threatening but it was Michael Clarke pushing the score forward as he punished some lose deliveries. It was an inspired move from Kumble that brought on the impact player of the Test Match – Virender Sehwag. The part time offie struck straightaway breaking the partnership and sealing India’s victory. Gilchrist (15) went on for a sweep shot to a delivery that pitched outside leg. It spun back sharply to bowl him round the sticks to end the 48-run stand. Viru in his next over got Brett Lee caught bat pad by VVS at silly point to make it 229 for 7.
India came back after Tea with just the three to take. They got one of them quickly with Michael Clarke stepping down too early for Anil Kumble to bowl a slightly wider leg break. That delivery spun and bounced to have Clarke stranded and the rest was done by the ever reliable MS Dhoni. Clarke missed out scoring his 6th hundred as he was gone for 81 (from 134 balls with 10 fours). India were on the threshold of a huge win as they got Australia at 253 for 8. However, another Clark (Stuart) came in the middle to join Mitchell Johnson. Both these lower order batsmen then went onto frustrate the Indians for the next 30 minutes with their slogging. Kumble was severely treated by the slog sweeps of Johnson. He was bowled by a quicker one from Kumble but that turned out to be a no ball. Eventually the second new ball gave the desperate break with Stuart Clark nicking one behind off Irfan Pathan. In his 32 (from 35 balls), Stuart Clark had perhaps played the best shot of the match perhaps when he hooked ‘RP Swing’ out of the ground for a six! Clark put on 83 runs along with Johnson which completely embarrassed the Indians infront of a 70,000 sell out crowd! Johnson helped himself to a maiden fifty, 50 from 80 with 5 fours and 2 sixes before RP Singh got one to clean up last man Shaun Tait. Australia were bowled out for 340 with their innings lasting 86.5 overs.
All the five bowlers used by Kumble were amongst the wickets which was very refreshing to watch. This was the first time that a team from the sub continent had won at Perth! The series is now 2-1 in favour of the Aussies with the last match to be played from the 24th at the Adelaide Oval, which was the same venue where India had won in 2003 riding on Dravid-Agarkar combination.