By ‘The Australian’
After India’s shambolic batting efforts this tour thus far, it didn’t require much imagination to predict them being rolled within three days on a bouncy WACA wicket. And so it proved, with the Indian batsmen, Virat Kohli apart, providing little in the way of resistance. In the end one stupendous innings from David Warner proved the difference between the two teams, bludgeoning the Indian bowling into submission late on the first day and destroying what little chance they had of retaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
One of the most satisfying elements for the home team would have been how well their bowling attack operated as a unit. Ben Hilfenhaus was consistently good all game and was rewarded with eight wickets, Peter Siddle unsettled the middle order in both innings, Ryan Harris took the important wicket of Sachin Tendulkar in the first innings whilst Mitchell Starc started the rot in the second with a fiery spell that removed both Gautam Gambhir and Tendulkar. The four quicks bowled so well that James Pattinson’s absence was barely noticed and the depth of Australian fast bowling was proven once again this summer. So long, messrs Johnson and Bollinger, your Test careers must surely be at an end.
With the bat, however, the Australians were far less convincing. Whilst David Warner and Ed Cowan took the game away from India, they were the only batsmen to seriously contribute to the Australian total. The middle order once again failed, a familiar story this summer. Shaun Marsh in particular failed to grasp the opportunity presented to him on his home pitch against a dispirited attack. The inconsistency of Australia’s batting is a serious cause for concern. In their last ten Test innings, if the aberration at the SCG is discounted, on only three occasions have more than three batsmen contributed more than 30 runs; in the second innings in Johannesburg, and the first in Brisbane and Melbourne. Yet the performances of Cowan and Warner overshadowed their teammates’ deficiencies. Whilst Warner’s innings, the fastest century by an opener at Test level, deservedly drew the plaudits, Cowan also quietly impressed, turning over the strike and scoring at a good rate himself. Their performance raises the question of where Shane Watson will bat on his return, which is not such a bad problem to have.
Where to begin? On the positive side of the equation Kohli batted with a poise and maturity his seniors lacked, top scoring in both innings, whilst Umesh Yadav also impressed with the ball, particularly on the second morning where he provided an inspired spell that reaped five wickets.
Aside from this, India were utterly terrible. Their top order batsmen continued their habit of playing at anything outside off stump, something that the Australian bowlers preyed upon mercilessly. Virender Sehwag in particular looked like a shell of the player who amassed a double century in a one day fixture two months ago. In both innings he attempted a more circumspect approach and on both occasions it failed completely.
Their middle order again batted miserably. Tendulkar may have been a little unlucky with his dismissal in the second innings but the others can have no such complaints, particularly Rahul Dravid who has now seen his wickets uplodged eight times in his past ten innings, surely a sign that his powers are fading. VVS Laxman prodded and poked and never looked convincing, whilst MS Dhoni, predictably, sent one into the slips in both innings without offering much.
In the field the Indians looked listless. When Warner began to take the game away from them with some boisterous hitting, Dhoni and co looked bereft of ideas. The debutante Vinay Kumar bowled under-paced seamers that were gleefully dispatched by the Australian openers, whilst Ishant Sharma was not introduced into the attack until the score had passed 80. On the second morning at least India played with more verve; Kumar bowling noticeably quicker, whilst Yadav pitched the ball on a fuller length to great success.
But by that point the game was effectively over and the series lost. Throughout this series India have failed to seize the initiative, with Dhoni seemingly happy to observe from behind the stumps without attempting to disrupt the flow of play. Field settings have been defensive, bowling changes unambitious, and the standard of fielding has been shocking throughout. This bears all the hallmarks of a team that simply cannot wait for the tour to be over. And for a team that contains some of the true greats of the modern game, that is a real shame.
With Dhoni suspended from the Adelaide Test for slow over-rates, changes are assured for the Indian team. With a small touring squad however, options are limited. Wriddihiman Saha will come into the side in place of Dhoni and whilst there are increasing calls for Rohit Sharma to make his Test debut, it is not clear who would make way. Has Laxman played his last Test match?
As for the Australians, Siddle is sure to be rested after a long summer, with Nathan Lyon to return in his stead. Hilfenhaus may also earn a rest but without a clear replacement available it would not surprise to see an otherwise unchanged Australian lineup.
With a flat Adelaide Oval pitch in prospect this match will represent the Australian swansong for a number of Indian players and, considering India will not play another Test for months, perhaps their final Test appearances. All emotion aside, India will be hoping to end a run of seven consecutive away Test defeats and salvage some pride from a dismal tour. Perhaps they can pray for rain.