Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth, 4th day January 19, 2008

Australia's cracks finally exposed

The end of the era came quickly. An Australian unit that seemed unbreakable over the past 24 months had actually been admirably masking the dints

It took four days for India to bring Australia's 16-match winning run to an end and Ricky Ponting is left with a truer perspective of the future © Getty Images
The end of the era came quickly. An Australian unit that seemed unbreakable over the past 24 months had actually been admirably masking the dints. During the past four days they could not survive any more collisions and Ricky Ponting's stunning tower has toppled.

Through 16 wins there were many one-sided successes, but the handful of near-death experiences had stolen the energy for a world-record miracle. Australia have lost their first Test since August 2005 and India retain the tag as the great spoiler of baggy green parties. India's victory is a fillip for the global game, proving that the world champions can be beaten, and forcing the hosts into further self-analysis.

There will be disappointment from Australia and their supporters, especially when Perth was the most bankable venue for victory, but the team must be praised for extending the streak for so long. Three months ago they re-started a Test campaign without Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer, a scenario that would have floored anybody else, yet Ponting held his side together until the tape could no longer handle the strain.

Matthew Hayden was missing his first match since 1999, leaving two inexperienced openers for Perth, Ponting was unable to patch himself up after his failed duels with Harbhajan Singh and a new bowling group seriously missed the influence of McGrath and Warne. Events that were supposed to happen in November were delayed until January and now the world is seeing the new Australia.

Like sharemarkets around the world, nobody knows how far they will dive, but the days of regular high dividends are gone. This record, a mark proving team substance over individual effort, must be cherished. After the Ashes defeat Ponting was able to look around his field of dream players and call for greater input. This time he has a handful of stars hovering above a core still waiting to know its worth.

Perth will be the venue where they realised Test success is not an Australian birthright. The WACA is meant to shock visiting teams, but the home players are the ones who cannot believe what has happened. The pitch didn't bounce, Shaun Tait whimpered and the batsmen were shut down by an under-manned India attack.

On the final day Ishant Sharma, a 19-year-old novice, operated like a world beater, working over Ponting in a way only Andrew Flintoff has managed since he became Australia's second best batsman. From the moment Ishant arced the ball wickedly into Ponting there was nowhere for Australia to turn.

The corner became tighter with a couple of umpiring errors against Michael Hussey and Andrew Symonds and the parallels to the Sydney Test were confirmed when Virender Sehwag picked up two wickets with his part-time spin. It was Australia's turn to experience misfortune.

Decisions are more likely to go bad for the struggling team, which is something Australia's opponents have complained about for years. At least there won't be calls for an umpire to be stood down for the final match of a gripping series in Adelaide next week, and the only boycott will remain an English commentator.

Australians believe official decisions even out over time. In Sydney it seemed an unfair pronouncement, but it has taken only four playing days for the theory to be proved. Hussey left immediately - only a sharp head turn and the briskness of his walk showed annoyance - while Symonds hung his bat out briefly after being ruled lbw to a ball he hit.

They were happy to accept the bonuses at the SCG and when the swings went against them here they were absorbed despite the impending loss. Australia have played in a manner that their supporters can be proud of, even in defeat.

Long lines of spectators waited to enter the outer in the morning and the competition India have provided has lifted interest in combination with the fall-out from Sydney. They came to see Australia survive and hoped for better. Most stayed to watch them lose, were entertained by the late charge of Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark, and applauded at the conclusion when the players merged for well-meaning handshakes. Ponting's men continued to be dignified in a defeat that ended their all-conquering rule.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Matthew on January 21, 2008, 2:31 GMT

    Earth calling India, please respond India.... are these people serious, they one one test (with a fantastic performance) and now all of a sudden the likes of ganguly are proclaiming that it wont be long before they are number 1 in the world, they surely cant believe their own hype. They did nothing but whinge about every aspect of the sydney test (noone ever mentions melbourne beacues they know it was a flogging) including the "over the top celebrations from the australian team" and now they win one test, celebrate in a similar manner, while no doubt talking themselves into believing that the umpiring was of top quality in Perth. India did have a great series here in 03/04, combined with this test is the apparant proof that they are soon to be number 1.... ummmmmm.... do india suddenly forget the series (in india) in 04 where we won 2-1?? Although australia are not as good as 12 months ago they will be number 1 for years to come

  • Grant on January 21, 2008, 0:43 GMT

    Congrats to India on a great game. It is great to see the forgotten trade of swing bowling return to test cricket. However i am disappointed that umpires / decisions are being talked about again. India outplayed Aus and despite some questionable decisions (to both teams) i think this didnt effect the result. Further i was pleased in the way both teams played the game, tough but fair. India were gracious in victory, if only the same thing can be said for their supporters. Sydney is history, GET OVER IT.

  • N on January 21, 2008, 0:40 GMT

    I fail to understand how dave4 can talk about poor decisions going against Australia. Did you miss the first innings when Tendulkar who was going great guns and Dhnoi setting up a partnership both were incorrectly given lbws. Hussey's dismissal was along those same lines. The umpire was atleast consistent in his decisions and thats ok. I don't think the notion of poor decisions against Australia should be discussed here. They were beaten comprehensively. Hayden was missed and the lack of speed at which Australia bowled the overs that hurt them the most. The 21 overs between Clarke and Symonds that Australia was forced to bowl led to the 400+ target and sealed Australias fate. I don't think Hogg would have made much off an impact if he would have played in place of Tait on this pitch.

  • Rajaram on January 21, 2008, 0:21 GMT

    I agree with dave4. Australia has been dignified in accepting the umpiring errors.The Australian media and past Australian Cricketing greats have not supported Ricky Ponting. Cricket Australia and Ponting should have asked for the sacking of Billy Bowden and Asad Rauf. Chris Rogers was wrongly adjudged lbw by Asad Rauf.Crooked Billy Bowden raised his (crooked) finger to Andrew Symonds giving him out lbw to a distinct nick heard miles away. And Mike Hussey was given out lbw wrongly. Where is the spirit of the game,Mr.Anil Kumble?In your whisky bottle? You were seen appealing excessively and exulting when Andrew Symonds was given out.Why is Peter Roebuck not demanding that Anil Kumble be sacked? Because the whining Pommie has still not got over Ricky Ponting whitewashing England 5 nil in The Ashes 2006 -07.

  • bryan on January 21, 2008, 0:00 GMT

    Even Roger Federer loses once every 17 matches or so. Does everyone jump up and down and shout his career is over because he can't win every event? The Australian cricket team owns every possible trophie except the t20 world cup. Only the American dream team in basketball could claim that sort of record.

    The same crap was sprouted when Steve Waugh's team lost after 16, and yet, less than 10 years later we are back to winning at well over 90%.

    All this test showed is that the Aussies have a weakness for very good swing bowling, and the fielding has gotten lax. Someone new needs to be trained in the specialist position of 1st slip for when Hayden retires.

    And whoever suggested that the Sri-lanka's might beat the aussie's now, didn't you watch the last series (2 months ago)? Only sangakkara's brillance made the series look anywhere near even, and not the demolishion it was.

  • enosh on January 20, 2008, 23:50 GMT

    Something like a banner at perth the last day,my heart says INDIA will push themselves to another win sydney and my head says its australia.. hello.. they know the winning formula; they know to play the best cricket.Its not easy for the greatest team ever to loose their way from one single well fought defeat.It can be like a hang over.Something that happend to them four years ago at adelaide and the rest is history.But still times have changed, players came in players have been left out their team balance has changed.In INDIA's perspective, cant still digest the thought that if we come through the adelaide hurdle with a win, it would mean the series would have been decided by one single test where the result was most influnced by umpiring decisions. HAving said all this no one even now can say they are struggling, which would surely be a point from where they are going to tumble down.Dear Peter you are being kind to Indians from the influnce of their victory well earned though.

  • ian on January 20, 2008, 23:29 GMT

    A fantastic game of cricket, with both teams at times playing exceptionally. Sharma was brilliant, India need to persist with him and give him a good crack at international cricket. The rear-guard actions by both teams were fantastic, Johnson and Clarke were great to watch. To those who were up in arms about Australia's reaction to wining in Syd, did you see the way India celebrated?? It hasn't been labled as anything but excitment and jubilation - which is exactly what Australia displayed in Syd because it was a fantastic game of cricket! Those saying India should be leading the series - they're not. It's 2-1, live with it and play tough cricket in Adelaide. One win does not make a champion side nor does one loss condemn one.

  • Gaston on January 20, 2008, 23:25 GMT

    What nonsense. This game saw a balance of poor decisions affecting both teams equally. Tendulkar and Dhoni got poor decisions - just as bad as Hussey/Symonds - and Ponting was clearly given a very generous benefit of the doubt. In Sydney, by contrast, the decisions were ridiculously one-sided. The Australians would have attacked the umpires with the stumps if they had been on the receiving end of such one-sided treatment.

  • Devan on January 20, 2008, 23:15 GMT

    Did i read that poor umpiring decisions for Symonds and Hussey !! Hello we are talking about the 3rd Test match right? what happened to Tendulkar and Dhoni in the first innings ? werent those poor decisions? Tendulkar would have gone to hit another century the way he was playing if not coz of those poor decisions? and did any of them show any disgrace when given wrongly out ? when would the Australian editors learn to write an unbiasssed article ?

  • Marcus on January 20, 2008, 23:04 GMT

    These comments are fantastic - must better reasoned and expressed than the correspondent's article.

    I'm not sure India will see it - but I hope the rest of the cricketing world will see how dangerous it is for countries to be able to dictate which umpires can and and which can not officiate in their games.

    At the end of the day - how does it not undermine the integrity of the whole game if an Umpire's impartiality can not be assured?

    On the whole Peter English I think Australian Cricket supports would be pretty happy with a win/loss ratio of 94%. Asside from the fact it was the batters who lost the game - Ponting lost 10% of his match fee and everyone else lost 5% - without having a slow bowler, how was this ever going to not be the case? It seems that the selectors got confused...

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