Test match cricket is a five-day affair, nobody told that to MS Dhoni & Co, though, as India folded in half that time to succumb to their seventh straight away Test loss, four of which have been innings defeats. The loss also saw the Australians regain the Border-Gavaskar trophy, leading the series 3-0 with one Test left.
India's chances of stretching the match into the fourth day were slim, not as slim as a misfiring batting line-up that failed to cross 300 yet again, a barrier that is proving as difficult for the much-vaunted batting line-up as a four-minute mile was for distance runners pre-Roger Bannister.
On this occasion, they failed to even pass 200 — for the fourth time in six innings in this series — getting dismissed for 171 to lose by an innings and 37 runs.
Close to the end, there was a poignant sight indicative of India's batting woes. Off the last ball of Ben Hilfenhaus' 18th over that yielded three wickets, Umesh Yadav defended one ball that went past the bowler. With four slips, a gully, a leg-slip, a short leg, and neither a mid-off nor mid-on, there was a run to be had, maybe even two. Virat Kohli just turned his back and stood in the crease.One couldn't blame him after he saw three tailenders fall in the space of five balls. Off the second ball of the next over, by Peter Siddle, it was all over. Kohli edged one to the wicketkeeper. Tailenders or frontline batsmen, both were clueless.
To be fair to Kohli, he was the only batsman to put up any semblance of a fight. His 136-ball 75 was a stern reminder to his critics that the Delhi batsman is the future.
Beginning of the end
Kohli's wicket may have been the final nail in the proverbial coffin, but the die had been cast long back. Even before a ball had been bowled with a green pitch awaiting the batsman, or maybe in the first two sessions of the match when the most celebrated batting line-up was all out. Or maybe when David Warner batted with the sort of aggression that one would normally associate with a fellow named Virender Sehwag, who himself showed none of that aggression, falling timidly to a nothing ‘defensive’ shot.
As things started on Day Three, India's chances of victory weren’t too bright, but surely an innings defeat could have been avoided. Twenty overs into the day, the chances seemed more than distinct, with Kohli completing his half-ton and Rahul Dravid closing in on one.
All that changed when Ryan Harris bowled Dravid for 47, a fifth such dismissal in six innings on this tour and a record 54th time his timber had been rattled in Tests. Captain MS Dhoni's stint in the middle was nothing to write home about, and he perished in the slip cordon off Siddle.
Hilfenhaus then cleaned out the tail with precise bowling, dismissing Vinay Kumar, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma in one lethal post-lunch over, before Siddle gave Bill Lawry to utter those famous last words, “It’s all over at the WACA.”
The Australian pacers finished with eerily similar figures to the ones in the first innings. Hilfenhaus (4/43 and 4/54), Harris (1/33 and 1/34), Starc (2/39 and 2/31) and Siddle (3/42 and 3/43) showed that going in with four pacers was the way to go on this pitch. The only difference between their pace quartet and India’s own lay in the execution.