Australia v India, 1st Test, Melbourne, 4th day December 29, 2007

Australia on the verge of another record



Matthew Hayden scored 124 and 47 on what Ricky Ponting rated the hardest pitch to bat on of any of his Tests in Australia © Getty Images
 

Australia are determined to avoid mentioning a record that is taking on the he-who-must-not-be-named characteristic of the Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort. With the four-day crushing of India, Ricky Ponting's team is only one win from equalling the world record of 16 consecutive Test victories.

Like any potential naming of Voldemort in the books, it seems that anyone in the team who dares raise the milestone is greeted with loud shooshing and terrified looks over shoulders. The players insist the record, which was set by Steve Waugh's sides between 1999 and 2001, was not talked about during the Sri Lanka series last month and Ponting said it wasn't discussed in the lead-up to Melbourne and won't be in Sydney.

"We didn't speak about it all - there was not one mention going into this game - which is the way I prefer it," he said. "There's no doubt it is something we could all be really proud of if we achieve it, but there's a lot of hard work and great play before that.

"We played well here and hopefully we can go to Sydney and play even better. If we do that record will be even closer." Ponting will have to wait a week to see if there are any repercussions for breaking the in-house ban.

However, after the 337-run demolition at the MCG, Australia's prospects of another win in Sydney are strong. Anil Kumble was not sure what went wrong for India, which makes it hard for the team to recover before Wednesday's second Test.

"It hurts, not just as an individual but as a team, that we haven't put up a good show and I can tell you we will address that and try to put up a better show in Sydney," he said. "It's important that as a collective unit we come out there and do the job. Everyone is equally disappointed."

Kumble said the problems were "mainly a mental thing", but he was also confident a more friendly pitch at the SCG would help his batsmen against the restrictive Australian bowling. Cluttered fields were set to wear down the Indians on an MCG wicket offering slow, low bounce.

"You have to give credit to the way they bowled," Kumble said. "They put pressure on the batting and I'm sure Sydney will be a better wicket in terms of stroke-making. We have stroke-makers and I'm sure the ball will come on to the bat better in Sydney."

Ponting knew how difficult the chase of 499 would be after seeing his batsmen grind in the second innings. When he declared late on day three he had no doubt India would fail to achieve the target, but he was surprised by the ease of the success.

"I expected it to be really hard work, we knew it was going to be hot," he said. "I felt with Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, who have been known to bat for long periods on wickets like that, that it might have been really tough."

He believed the 135-run opening stand on the first day, which was the largest of the match, set up the victory on a pitch he rated the hardest to bat on of any of his Tests in Australia. Matthew Hayden, the Man of the Match, was responsible for carrying the first innings with 124, but he also picked up a back problem.

Hayden said it was "nothing a Panadol wouldn't fix" and was not worried about backing up at the SCG. Australia's comprehensive performance means only injury will force changes and by sealing the win so quickly they have another day to recover from any niggles. India appeared to need a much longer turnaround to sort out their troubles.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo