Indian top blown away again

Paceman Yadav bags maiden five-for but Australia close in on series victory

For two sessions, the WACA was India’s theatre of dreams. Their bowlers produced spells of sustained brilliance, perhaps for the first time in the series, to bundle out Australia and open up hitherto non-existent possibilities.

Led by the tireless Umesh Yadav, who grabbed his first five-wicket haul in Tests, India plucked twn Australian wickets for 220 runs, restricting them to 369 all out. The hosts led by a massive 208 runs, but there was a glimmer of hope.

Could this Indian batting line-up, which has collectively produced more than 50,000 Test runs, fire? Was there a miracle in store, like in Kolkata (2001) and Adelaide (2003)?

There was none of it. Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman walked back to the hut with just 88 on board, and the visitors still trail by 120 runs. India still have the reassuring Rahul Dravid and an effervescent Virat Kohli in the middle, but the reality that there could be only one winner from here, that’s Australia, was so palpable at the end of the second day.

It was the turn of another left-hander from New South Wales to pile misery on India. After David Warner’s blitzkrieg, Mitchell Starc, a strapping 21-year old left-arm fast bowler, tormented India. Ryan Harris and Ben Hilfenhaus toiled without any results against Gambhir and Sehwag as the Indian duo looked determined to end a series of poor scores.

Michael Clarke brought in Starc, and it proved a golden move for Australia. Till then pretty comfortable against the Australian quicks, the Delhi left-hander was caught napping by a brute of a lifter. The red cherry thudded on to Gambhir’s handle before safely nestling in Mike Hussey’s hands.

It was the tonic the Aussies needed. They came in like a pack of hungry wolves, and shared the big scalps of Sehwag, Tendulkar and Laxman in quick succession to push India to the brink, all victims of either bounce or movement generated by the pacemen.

Before they stared down the barrel with another inept batting effort, Indian bowlers had put some life back into the fading campaign with a stone-willed effort. But the initial hour of the morning session hinted another long day for Indians on the field as the overnight pair of Warner and Ed Cowan stretched their alliance to 214.

Massive partnership

Warner, who was eventually dismissed for 180, also got the aid of luck as Kohli dropped him at first slip off Zaheer Khan when the batsman was on 126. Yadav snapped the massive partnership, castling Cowan, and the Indian bowlers, for a change, never let the intensity down. In the space of the next four overs after Cowan’s dismissal, Yadav winkled out Shaun Marsh and Ricky Ponting, bowled through the gate, as India went for lunch in a happier state of mind.

The post-lunch session saw Zaheer joining the party. The Mumbai left-arm pacer was bowling brilliantly in the first session as well, but without much luck. He filled the wicket column, jettisoning Clarke and soon bagged the even more satisfying wicket of Brad Haddin. The Australian wicket-keeper had engaged Zaheer in a war of words, and the Indian pacer celebrated after Mahendra Singh Dhoni snaffled an edge, sending a flying kiss to Haddin, who walked back in a hurry.

During that phase, Australia were in genuine danger of folding up for a far less total that could have gave India a bit more momentum. But the late order batsmen delayed the end, scoring a few runs that pushed the lead past the 200-run mark. Yadav returned to mop up the tail to complete his maiden five-wicket haul. Perth, the venue of Ishant Sharma’s rise four years ago, might have handed India another long-term prospect in Yadav.

But unlike four years ago, Yadav’s effort came a little too late to make an impact.

Score Board

INDIA (I Innings): 161 all out
AUSTRALIA (I Innings: O/n: 149/0)
Cowan b Umesh     74
(182m, 120b, 10x4)
Warner c Umesh b Ishant     180
(285m, 159b, 20x4, 5x6)
Marsh c Laxman b Umesh     11
(20m, 19b, 2x4)
Ponting b Umesh     7
(8m, 6b, 1x4)
Clarke c Dhoni b Zaheer     18
(67m, 38b, 3x4)
Hussey c Sehwag b Vinay     14
(40m, 29b, 2x4)
Haddin c Dhoni b Zaheer     0
(7m, 3b)
Siddle b Umesh     30
(29m, 30b, 4x4)
Harris c Gambhir b Umesh     9
(24m, 17b)
Starc (not out)     15
(38m, 27b, 3x4)
Hilfenhaus c Kohli b Sehwag     6
(11m, 9b, 1x4)
Extras (LB-3, W-2)     5
Total (all out, 76.2 overs)     369
Fall of wickets: 1-214 (Cowan), 2-230 (Marsh), 3-242 (Ponting), 4- 290 (Warner), 5-301 (Clarke), 6-303 (Haddin), 7-339 (Hussey), 8-343 (Siddle), 9- 357 (Harris).
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 21-3-91-2 (w-1), Umesh Yadav 17-2-93-5 (w-1), Vinay Kumar 13-0-73-1, Ishant Sharma 18-0-89-1, Virender Sehwag 7.2-0-20-1.

INDIA (II Innings):
Gambhir c Hussey b Starc     14
(40m, 37b, 3x4)
Sehwag c Haddin b Siddle     10
(49m, 28b, 2x4)
Dravid (batting)     32
(99m, 63b, 6x4)
Tendulkar lbw Starc     8
(22m, 16b, 1x4)
Laxman c Marsh b Hilfenhaus     0
(12m, 9b)
Kohli (batting)     21
(54m, 39b, 3x4)
Extras (B-1, LB-1, W-1)     3
Total (for 4 wkts, 32 overs)     88
Fall of wickets: 1-24 (Gambhir), 2-25 (Sehwag), 3-42 (Tendulkar), 4-51 (Laxman).
Bowling: Ryan Harris 8-1-23-0, Ben Hilfenhaus 9-2-25-1, Mitchell Starc 6-2-14-2, Peter Siddle 7-2-21-1 (w-1), Michael Hussey 2-0-3-0.

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