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Is the sun setting on Australia?

It had seemed that the sun will never set on the Australian winning spree. And whatever the outcome of this final cricket Test.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2004 11:36 IST

It had seemed that the sun will never set on the Australian winning spree.

And whatever the outcome of this final cricket Test, the Indians have proved that it perhaps will as they sniff a chance of their first-ever series win on Australian soil.

"As long as they are dominating, the Australians are big bullies on the field, but the concept of staying on the crease to avoid loss is alien to them," said a former Aussie cricketer yesterday as the hosts faced the ignominy of having to follow-on.

In the past, seldom have Australians been in a position where they did not have much choice left. For the first time in 15 years they are having to think of saving a follow on. The last time they were in this "inglorious" position was in Ian Healy's debut Test against Pakistan in Karachi in 1988.

It was not surprising that a story by Robert Craddock in 'The Courier Mail' was preceded by a warning: "cricket fans with delicate stomachs are advised not to read this. We feel obliged to advise as it contains material some people may find distressing."

The write-up detailed Australia's bowling averages against India. It said, "rarely in the history of Test cricket has an Australian side copped such harsh treatment from a visiting side.

"Till now in this series only Jason Gillespie has nine wickets at 38.3, averaging less than 40 runs a wicket. Fast bowlers Brett Lee's average is eight wickets at 50.1, Andy Bichel's six at 49.1, Brad Williams' five at 45.0 and Nathan Bracken's six at 52.5."

Craddock continued, "Australia changed its attack in every Test, yet could find no answer to cracking the determination of openers Aakash Chopra and Virender Sehwag, the wristy brilliance of VVS Laxman and the technical purity of Rahul Dravid".

Not all fairytales have a happy ending and while Steve Waugh will always be remembered as one of the game's greats, this series story sends a message that it is time to give a fresh look to the Australian side's "second rate" bowling and "abysmal" fielding.

Peter Roebuck wrote in the 'Sydney Morning Herald': "The great are famous for their failures, the ordinary for their achievements" and it was left for the readers to decide Waugh belonged to which category.

Chloe Saltau wrote in the Herald, "It will not be lost on Waugh that in his last Test he was dismissed by a man half his age. A late-swinging ball from India's talented left-armer Irfan Pathan, 19, found the outside edge of 38-year-old Waugh's bat and carried through to gloveman Parthiv Patel, who incidentally is less than half Waugh's age, and ended the captain's innings on 40."

To many former international cricketers, Ganguly's decision to continue his side's innings for 39 minutes yesterday "gave further proof of the new-found doggedness and mental strength that have characterised the Indians this summer -- a trait some observers attribute to the work of sports psychologist Sandy Gordon".

One newspaper quoted former Test skipper Greg Chappell as saying, "They are certainly up there. I have played against some before that have been pretty tough; Sunil Gavaskar's team of the 1980s was up there too.

"These guys, certainly batting-wise, are very strong in terms of talent and toughness. I got the impression Ganguly's decision to bat was just to annoy the Australians a bit. He knew it was still a good batting wicket. He thought it might perhaps upset them enough to put them off."

First Published: Jan 06, 2004 00:35 IST