India could have been sniffing a probable victory last night after reducing Australia to 179/8, even though Michael Hussey remained a big threat to their chances as long as he was at the crease. However, one amazing 43-run partnership for the last Australian wicket demoralized India to such an extent that even a modest target of 292 seemed like 492 for a batting line-up having more than 50,000 runs to their credit.
Hussey only 10 runs to his overnight score of 79 as he was dismissed by a snorter from Zaheer Khan outside off-stump but James Pattinson was able to post his highest first class score in the innings of 37 where he demonstrated wonderful technique for a tailender, much like Ishant Sharma did for India in the first innings. While his partner in crime, Ben Hilfenhaus played two cracking strokes as well which frustrated the Indian bowlers.
But the Aussie bowlers continued from where they left off in the first innings as the pitch was deteriorating. The Indian batting collapsed like a pack of cards as the top order struggled against the pace of Pattinson, swing of Hilfenhaus and the seam movement of Siddle. Dravid was trapped beautifully by an inswinger from Pattinson which was bowled at a tremendous pace and that was perhaps the last nail in the coffin of the Indian batting as he is the man in form this year.
Gambhir’s problems outside off-stump continued as he gave a regulation catch to Ponting at second slip off Siddle’s bowling. While Laxman’s poor run at the MCG continued and Kohli failed yet again. Sachin Tendulkar gave the Indian fans a lot to cheer about but Siddle played spoilsport yet again by picking his wicket at a key juncture of the match. At 81/6, India were already staring now the barrel and it was just a matter of time before the match ends.
Dhoni and Ashwin fought hard for India but there was no big partnership to be seen and that cost India dearly as the tailenders could not survive for long. There is some promise in the batting line-up but Australia’s quickies are in red hot form and it was close to impossible to stop their march as they picked wickets at regular intervals.
India have a lot to work on if they are to pose any challenge to this underrated Australian team come Sydney.