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January 29, 2008
Australia lost a Test for the first time at home in four years and drew a game for the only occasion since 2005. Despite the setbacks they were able to record a 2-1 series win over India thanks to some outstanding performances.
Australia might have spluttered on a couple of levels, but there was no problem with their main bowler. Brett Lee continued his fine form from the Sri Lanka campaign and collected back-to-back Man-of-the-Series awards. He has become a reliable performer since Glenn McGrath's departure and added to his reputation with 24 wickets at 22.58 and a victim every 46.7 balls.
Was fortunate with numerous umpiring decisions, but took full advantage with the bat to post 410 runs. The undoubted highlight was the unbeaten 162 that took Australia through the trouble of 6 for 134 to the comfort of 463 at the SCG. A couple of half-centuries and nine wickets added significantly to his value.
Like Glenn McGrath in the 2005 Ashes, Hayden was so important to the squad that Australia lost the game he missed. The right thigh problem ruled him out of the WACA Test and interrupted his outstanding run of 124, 47, 13 and 123. He returned for the final match with 103 and finished with an average of 82.00. With Adam Gilchrist departing, Hayden's value has increased again.
The rise of Hussey has been so strong over the past couple of years that his series was quiet by his Everest standards. Only one hundred - 145 not out in Sydney - and his first zero, which came at a crucial time with a poor shot in Perth, contributed to his return of 292 runs at a mean of only 48.66. He is a leading candidate for the vice-captaincy.
A mature 118 concluded his campaign in Adelaide, which also included second-innings fifties in Melbourne and Perth, but the most memorable moments came in his dramatic final over at the SCG. With 12 balls to go Australia wanted three wickets, but Clarke needed only five to seal the success. He learned from his other mistakes in that match and will battle with Hussey to become Ponting's deputy.
The only match where he didn't make an important contribution was in the loss at the WACA, where both openers experienced double failures. A pair of fifties opened his series and he recovered from the Perth disappointment to post a patient 60 in the final Test, confirming he has the attitude for a lengthy international career.
A two-paced century in Adelaide allowed Ponting to finish a difficult journey on a high. The sight of Harbhajan Singh caused significant wobbles in the opening two Tests and Ponting became a target for his team's performance in Sydney. The loss in the third match added to his pain, but his side regained focus and worked hard for a draw to record a 2-1 result.
Ponting persevered with Johnson throughout and he responded with 16 wickets that displayed his promise. He will need to show more penetration to prove he is worthy of a long-term appointment and will also hope to correct a technical problem with his wrist position at delivery. When given the chance, his batting was wildly impressive and, thanks to a couple of not outs, he was briefly averaging the same as Bradman.
After starring since making his debut, Clark had a quieter series that wasn't helped by him constantly being relegated to No. 3 on Ponting's fast-bowling list. A haul of 4 for 28 in Melbourne seemed to set him up for the rest of the contest, but apart from another four-victim collection in Perth he was unable to maintain his potency on pitches that didn't help. Clark's strike-rate of 62.5 was also well down on his career mark of 49.9.
It was not the sort of series Gilchrist would have wished for in his final Test assignments. He dropped a handful of catches - some easy, some hard - and managed only one half-century, albeit a crucial one as Australia struggled in Perth. One of the misses in Adelaide told him he had to retire and the ovations he received will be recalled instead of his low output whenever this series comes up.
Showed good signs in his first three innings, taking two wickets in each, but failed when it mattered on the final day in Sydney and Adelaide. Without his dominance of Sourav Ganguly, who he dismissed four times, Hogg's series would have been even more barren, and his best contribution came with 79 under severe pressure at the SCG. He will look forward to returning to his preferred one-day format.
The selectors finally gave in to the hype and played four fast men in Perth, a move that backfired for the team and Tait. He delivered only 21 overs for the game, which Australia lost by 72 runs, and did not capture a wicket on a surface that suited a more traditional line-up.
Picked for a home-ground debut when Hayden was injured, Rogers was unlucky with an lbw decision on 4 in his first innings and looked comfortable in making 15 in the second. Will be ready for a call whenever Hayden or Jaques slip in the future.
A look back at five high-profile exhibition matches
Shakib Al Hasan trained with his team-mates as the BCB directors held their meeting in Mirpur, unaware of the massive punishment he was about to be hit with