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Suffocated, India self-destruct

Australia trounce the visitors by 337 runs at the MCG to take a 1-0 lead in the series, reports Kadambari Murali. Scorecard

cricket Updated: Dec 30, 2007 00:11 IST
Kadambari Murali

“I wish I knew what went wrong,” Anil Kumble remarked after India folded up for 161, even lower than their abysmal first innings 196, to lose the first Test here to Australia by a massive 337 runs. The India captain obviously knew what went wrong… he was just being diplomatic. At least at the start, because later, he went on to talk about how India’s “batting didn’t stand up” to the Aussies.

Darn right it didn’t! It made for some awful viewing here at the MCG, watching the Aussies march majestically towards victory, even as zombified Indian bat after zombified Indian bat made a quick entrance and an equally quick exit over the course of the day. There were a couple of exceptions of course, there always are. Rahul Dravid, a troubled soul who is so often the right man in the wrong place for various reasons, made another painfully slow exit today, following up his first innings five off 66 balls with a 114-ball 16.

V.V.S. Laxman, who the Aussies are always genuinely worried about, irritated the hosts for a while with some lovely shots straight and through the leg side. They showed their respect by changing the field for him — keeping a silly mid-on in place almost throughout his innings and, at one stage, trying to cramp him with two short-midwickets.

With the wicket as slow as it was and Laxman being known to play his shots whatever the circumstances, they were obviously hoping to lull him into playing through or over that area. He didn’t, but fell ultimately when his bat handle turned during an attempted drive that went straight to Michael Clarke at cover. Once Laxman fell — he and Sourav Ganguly were looking extremely comfortable in the middle — there wasn’t really any hope left of a big match-saving stand. Wasim Jaffer had perished early this morning, pushing Lee without moving his feet only to be caught behind, inspiring little confidence in what he’ll do on true Aussie bouncy wickets. Tendulkar was set up: flashing, slashing and missing, flashing, slashing and perishing to Lee, again behind. Yuvraj Singh and M.S. Dhoni came and disappeared.

But Ganguly looked determined to put a prize on his wicket. As determined as the Australians were to get him — evident from the way Brett Lee first greeted him with a snorter that he ducked under and then, walked up to the Indian to say a few more.

Ganguly merely grinned and kept his cool. He never really looked in any trouble, punishing the loose deliveries, rotating the strike, defending competently, but as wickets fell, he probably knew that it was just a matter of time. He finally fell for 40, trapped by Bradd Hogg while attempting to defend.

Ganguly’s was the third wicket to fall in the space of four deliveries, a statistic that will not make Kumble happy. As will the fact that the last five wickets cost thee Aussies only 27 runs.

Ricky Ponting wanted to give his bowlers some extra time off over the change of the year and they responded with some smart thinking, choking the Indian bats and allowing them to self-destruct on a wicket everyone said was tough to get runs on, but fairly easy to survive on if a batter applied himself.

Well, the Indians didn’t and will have to spend New Year's Eve wondering what miracle they can perform in double quick time to at least make a fight of it in Sydney. The Aussies plan to party.