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October 9, 2004
The Australian pressure came from all angles, and India could not cope. As the only team consistently to repel the world champions over the past three years, India are now expected to absorb it and move on towards a win or a draw. But after the top order's second surrender of the match, reaching stumps on the final day would rate alongside the 2001 Kolkata miracle.
While the Border-Gavaskar Trophy remains in Cricket Australia's Melbourne headquarters, it has not really belonged Down Under since the 3-0 whitewash in 1999-2000. Under Sachin Tendulkar's captaincy, a young side was outclassed by a blend of bounce, line and impatience. Lessons learned, they rebounded and twice held the Australians' gaze. But in dropping to 2 for 4 in the first innings and 4 for 19 in the second here, they suffered a relapse that could take matches to recover from.
A line change - from outside off to zeroing in on the stumps - has worked immediately for Australia's bowlers. While eight of Australia's second-innings batsmen went to close-in catches, four of India's top six fell lbw. The tumble began with a terrible decision for Virender Sehwag, but the bowling was superb as both openers cut the ball viciously across the maze of cracks ... think Harbhajan Singh nearing 140kph.
Glenn McGrath's first spell of five overs contained four maidens and leaked one miserly run. While Sehwag was still shaking his head McGrath almost trapped Rahul Dravid with a similarly sharp mover. This time the edge was heard before it hit the pads. The relentless accuracy continued, puncturing the batsmen's confidence and opening wounds to exploit through the remainder of the series.
Out of sorts until the end of the first innings, Jason Gillespie charged through Aakash Chopra, and softened up Sourav Ganguly's stomach before his awful run-out. Shane Warne whirled closer to Muttiah Muralitharan's world record as McGrath was pastured, and the vice did not loosen as Michael Kasprowicz began, Gillespie returned, and the pressure increased.
Following his first-innings relaxing of the gap between bat and pad, Dravid played as he could - and how the others should. He dragged Yuvraj Singh along with him until McGrath scratched him out in his first over back. Another offcutter, another Indian lapse and another Gilchrist catch. As a reward McGrath ran in for seven overs, his longest spell of the match, and his 12 overs brought eight maidens and cost only nine runs. Once again India had been well and truly Scrooged.
Peter English is Australasian editor of Wisden Cricinfo.
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