Embarrassing and soul-crushing

Umesh Yadav, who impressed again, clean bowls Ricky Ponting.-AP

India surrendered the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, but it wasn't so much the defeat as the manner of defeat that rankled. A lot of the batsmen tried hard in the first innings, but they couldn't adjust in time to the extra pace and bounce of the WACA. By S. Ram Mahesh.

Much like 2008, India came to Perth 0-2 down. But unlike 2008, there wasn't the steely resolve that had formed after the events in Sydney; and unlike 2008, the Australian team refused to relent, this time after winning an important toss. As fabled, as historic, as spirit-lifting as the 2008 win was, the Perth Test of 2012 was wretched, embarrassing, soul-crushing. Australia won by an innings and 37 runs, and threatened at one stage to do so by an even bigger margin — and in two days! India avoided that particular humiliation, but taking the game to three days was all it could take comfort in.

Once No. 1, not that far back actually, India looked like a no-hoper. “Australia has played very well, and we haven't played to potential,” said M. S. Dhoni, who presided over India's seventh successive defeat abroad. “This is exactly what happened in England. Most of the times the series gets interesting when both sides are in very good form or both sides are in very bad form. This is not so now.”

India surrendered the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, but it wasn't so much the defeat as the manner of defeat that rankled. A lot of the batsmen tried hard in the first innings, but they couldn't adjust in time to the extra pace and bounce of the WACA. It wasn't the pace and bounce that did the damage, however, merely the threat of it. Australia's bowlers got the ball to swing with the breeze, an easterly from the Australian desert, and the batsmen, under pressure because of the control of the home side's bowlers, lost their wickets.

There was the odd magic ball, like the outswinger Ben Hilfenhaus produced to Virender Sehwag, but mainly it was old-fashioned line-and-length bowling with enough movement at good pace. There were fighting knocks from Gautam Gambhir and V. V. S. Laxman, and an impressive cameo from Virat Kohli. But they lacked the substance a bowling attack needs to bowl with. A score of more than 300 would have helped, but India managed just 161. The disappointment was compounded when David Warner started a storm on the first evening, smashing a century in 69 balls, the fourth-fastest of all time and the quickest by an opener. The left-hander, who was reprieved on 126 by Kohli at slip off Zaheer Khan, went on to make 180; the rest of Australia, which included Ed Cowan and his 74, made 188. “Davey played an exceptional innings,” Australian captain Michael Clarke said after the match. “Credit to him and Ed for how they batted on a wicket that still had a hell of a lot for the bowlers.”

India's bowlers mounted a comeback, but they had left it too late. Warner, in unsettling them, had won a crucial battle. After the opening partnership of 214, the bowlers managed to take 10 wickets for just 155 runs. Umesh Yadav caught the eye, like he had in Melbourne; he finished with his first career haul of five wickets. He was fast and direct. The deliveries that bowled Ricky Ponting and Peter Siddle were particularly impressive. He also took a fine running catch off Ishant Sharma's bowling to end Warner's stay. Australia finished with 369, and it was enough to press for victory.

India gathered 10 more runs than it had in the first innings. Rahul Dravid made a battling 47, but it was again Kohli who impressed. The young man's 75 showed plenty of promise. But these were small bright spots in a bleak performance, which again included a top-order collapse and a lower-order slide.

“This is definitely one of the worst phases,” admitted Dhoni. “I am repeating myself, four Tests in England, three Tests here, we have not put runs on the board. There is only one instance where we have scored over 350. That's something we need to be careful about. Because we want to give bowlers runs so that they can look to get the opposition out. One or two bad innings can happen in Test cricket. One odd bowler may bowl really well and he can get the opposition out but overall I think seven Test matches is a bit long for the batting line to fail.”

To add insult to injury, Dhoni, who again had a poor Test as a batsman, was banned from playing the fourth Test in Adelaide because of India's slow over-rate.

THE SCORES

Third Test, Perth, January 13-15, 2012. Australia won by an innings and 37 runs.

India — 1st innings: G. Gambhir c Haddin b Hilfenhaus 31; V. Sehwag c Ponting b Hilfenhaus 0; R. Dravid b Siddle 9; S. Tendulkar lbw b Harris 15; V. V. S. Laxman c Clarke b Siddle 31; V. Kohli c Warner b Siddle 44; M. S. Dhoni c Ponting b Hilfenhaus 12; R. Vinay Kumar lbw b Starc 5; Zaheer Khan c Clarke b Hilfenhaus 2; Ishant Sharma c Haddin b Starc 3; Umesh Yadav (not out) 4; Extras (b-2, lb-2, w-1) 5. Total: 161.

Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-32, 3-59, 4-63, 5-131, 6-138, 7-152, 8-152, 9-157.

Australia bowling: Harris 18-6-33-1; Hilfenhaus 18-5-43-4; Starc 12.2-3-39-2; Siddle 12-3-42-3.

Australia — 1st innings: E. Cowan b Yadav 74; D. Warner c Yadav b Ishant 180; S. Marsh c Laxman b Yadav 11; R. Ponting b Yadav 7; M. Clarke c Dhoni b Zaheer 18; M. Hussey c Sehwag b Vinay 14; B. Haddin c Dhoni b Zaheer 0; P. Siddle b Yadav 30; R. Harris c Gambhir b Yadav 9; M. Starc (not out) 15; B. Hilfenhaus c Kohli b Sehwag 6; Extras (lb-3, w-2) 5. Total: 369.

Fall of wickets: 1-214, 2-230, 3-242, 4-290, 5-301, 6-303, 7-339, 8-343, 9-357.

India bowling: Zaheer 21-3-91-2; Yadav 17-2-93-5; Vinay 13-0-73-1; Ishant 18-0-89-1; Sehwag 7.2-0-20-1.

India — 2nd innings: G. Gambhir c Hussey b Starc 14; V. Sehwag c Haddin b Siddle 10; R. Dravid b Harris 47; S. Tendulkar lbw b Starc 8; V. V. S. Laxman c Marsh b Hilfenhaus 0; V. Kohli c Haddin b Siddle 75; M. S. Dhoni c Ponting b Siddle 2; R. Vinay Kumar c Clarke b Hilfenhaus 6; Zaheer Khan c Clarke b Hilfenhaus 0; Ishant Sharma c Cowan b Hilfenhaus 0; Umesh Yadav (not out) 0; Extras (b-1, lb-5, w-3) 9. Total: 171.

Fall of wickets: 1-24, 2-25, 3-42, 4-51, 5-135, 6-148, 7-171, 8-171, 9-171.

Australia bowling: Harris 16-3-34-1; Hilfenhaus 18-6-54-4; Starc 12-4-31-2; Siddle 15.2-5-43-3; Hussey 2-0-3-0.