Having been forced to try out four opening bowling combinations in the first five matches, Australia fielded a fifth one in the sixth ODI on Sunday. The left-handed duo of Mitchell Johnson and Doug Bollinger turned out to be just right for the visitors, dashing India's hopes of levelling the series well before they could even settle down.
It wasn't a vicious or unplayable opening burst and there was no great assistance from the wicket. Apart from the customary swing, the new ball was not moving around alarmingly either. It was just a story of application, on part of the bowlers and application errors, on part of the batsmen. A combination of these can lead to one conclusion only.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the first one to admit that. "Not that the pitch misbehaved but we just kept losing wickets and from 27 for five, there was little we could do. Batting has suddenly become a concern for us and we lost this series because of that. Rarely did we click as a batting unit."
Johnson was consistently quick but far from hostile. He was giving the right-handers width and Virender Sehwag's six over point off the second ball of the match was the only occasion when this was taken advantage of. The opener let one through the gap, Gautam Gambhir played down the wrong line to one that moved a touch away from the left-hander and Suresh Raina picked short mid-on with clinical precision.
The quality of bowling was better from the other end. A little slower than Johnson, Bollinger was far more accurate and after bagging one wicket less than his bowling partner in the first spell, made up for it afterwards. Figures of 5-4-6-2 in the opening spell included the big one of Sachin Tendulkar, who probably played a fraction early to lob the ball back to the bowler.
"Our opening bowlers did superbly," said Ricky Ponting. There was something for the spinners but the wicket was good for batting…definitely not something where you get reduced to 27 for five. The best chance for a side fielding first was to strike with the new ball and once we got five early wickets, it was always going to be tough for India."
The most noticeable observation made by the captains was that the new ball swung a bit, but not to an extent which causes such destruction, so quickly. It was one of those days when things came tumbling down without substantial logic. Finding the reason is difficult because it means a peek into the minds of the batsmen.