Tendulkar and Lee turn it on
The final series scoreline read 2-1 in favour of Australia, but India had reason to feel satisfied with their performance in three of the four Tests. They became the first team from the subcontinent to win a Test in Perth, and matched Australia in both Sydney and Adelaide. The difference between this series and India's previous tour, in 2003-04, was the first Test in Melbourne, when Australia dominated thoroughly.
Overall, Australia scored nearly ten runs more per wicket than India during the series. India had managed to marginally outdo Australia in this aspect in 2003-04, with an average of 49.22 to Australia's 47.41. In fact, the comparison clearly reflects that the bowlers on both sides did much better this time around: India's bowlers restricted Australia to 41.76 runs per wicket - nearly six runs less than in 2003-04. However, India's batsmen - five of whom were around in 2003-04 - failed to rake up the runs as easily, scoring almost 17 runs less per wicket.
|Team||Average runs per wicket||Runs per over||Average in 2003-04|
One reason the overall figures look poor for India is the drubbing in the first Test in Melbourne. On a wicket which was supposed to be conducive to their style of play, India scored a paltry 17.85 runs per wicket while Australia maintained an average of more than 40. Discount the first Test, and the difference in the average runs per wicket drops by nearly five points.
India were perhaps done in by the lack of practice going into the tour - they played just one rain-affected game. Also, had they played an additional game or two, perhaps Virender Sehwag - who dazzled with his 151 in the final innings of the series - would have got a look-in earlier. Instead, India's best performance came in the third Test in Perth, where many gave the visitors no chance.
|Team||Average runs per wicket in Melbourne||Runs per over||Average elsewhere||Runs per over|
In 2003-04, India's batsmen were primarily responsible for the team's good show. Sachin Tendulkar topped the run-charts this time, but barring Sehwag - who played only two Test - none of the key batsmen could better their averages of 2003-04. Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds were the leading run-getters for Australia; however, it wasn't a great series for Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid, who had been the backbone of their team's batting the last time around.
|Player||Matches||Runs||Average||100/50||Runs in 2003-04 series||Average|
Australia's batsmen were also better in forging partnerships compared to their counterparts. They averaged more than 40 for each of the first six wickets except the second, while for India only the second and fourth-wicket partnerships were able to better that mark. India struggled with their opening combination, and although Sehwag provided some stability at the top in Perth and Adelaide, the woefully out-of-touch Wasim Jaffer and makeshift openers Rahul Dravid and Irfan Pathan were hardly able to get going.
For Australia, Ponting's failures meant their generally prolific second-wicket partnership managed only 16.42 runs, their lowest in a series since 2000. The tails for both sides also wagged fairly well in this series.
|For wicket||Australia's average||India's average|
The last four wickets for both teams added 1433 runs at an healthy average of 28.09. India's tally of 752 for the last four wickets has only been bettered once since 1990, when they scored 973 on the tour to Australia in 1991-92. It was not only that the tailenders hung around with the recognised batsmen for both teams; they scored runs themselves - the batsmen in positions 8-11 made 902 runs in the series, the second-most in the last ten years.
Among the bowlers, Brett Lee was by far the standout performer of the series. The fast bowler's performances have stepped up a notch since the retirement of Glenn McGrath, with 40 wickets in six Tests at an average of 20.57. Prior to the two-Test series against Sri Lanka, Lee's 231 wickets had come at an average of 31.60. Lee's improved accuracy also reflects in his economy-rate, which has dropped from 3.56 runs per over earlier to 2.92 in his last six Tests. His performance is also in stark contrast to the stats when India visited in 2003-04; in two Tests, Lee had picked up eight wickets, averaging 59.50 and going at 4.72 per over.
For India, Anil Kumble - who shone with some fighting knocks with the bat as well - led the wicket-takers' list. However, the part-time spinners Andrew Symonds, Sehwag and Michael Clarke finished with better bowling averages than the specialist spinners, with both Brad Hogg and Harbhajan Singh conceding more than 60 runs for their series hauls of eight wickets apiece. (For the list of leading wicket-takers in the series, click here.)
Lee had some interesting tussles with the Indian batsmen. Both VVS Laxman and Jaffer were at sea against him and his battles with Tendulkar were among the highlights of the series. The only batsman Lee really struggled against was Sehwag.
Harbhajan and Hogg may have had a poor series, but the spinners had their victims as well; Ponting struggled against Harbhajan while Ganguly often fell to Hogg, despite scoring the bulk of his runs off the left-arm chinaman bowler.
|Harbhajan v Ponting||50||103||3||16.66|
|Harbhajan v the rest||440||821||5||88.00|
|Hogg v Ganguly||98||144||4||24.50|
|Hogg v the rest||383||606||4||95.75|
However, there were no troubles for Tendulkar against Hogg. He enjoyed himself against all the left-armers, not getting out to them even once while piling on the runs. Michael Hussey, though, found the going tough against them, falling to RP Singh four times and Irfan Pathan once.
|Tendulkar v left-arm bowlers||272||374||0||-|
|Tendulkar v right-arm bowlers||221||377||6||36.83|
|Hussey v left-arm bowlers||62||141||5||12.40|
|Hussey v right-arm bowlers||230||471||1||230.00|
Kumble had an even share of left and right-hand batsmen in his 20 wickets, but was less effective against the former. Out of the ten wickets against left-handers, he dismissed Phil Jacques - who managed 36 runs against Kumble - four times.
Australia are considered to be one of the best fielding and catching sides in Tests, but they were way below par in this series. The absence of Shane Warne has hurt them both in the bowling and the slip-catching department, while in Perth Australia had to not only bring in Chris Rogers at the top but also shuffle around their slip cordon.
Australia spilled 19 chances during the series, while India fluffed eight that came their way. The 19 drops cost the team a sum-total of 549 runs. (For a batsman dropped multiple times, the runs are only added once, from the first reprieve to the final dismissal.) On the other hand, India's misses cost them 244 runs.
The most expensive and crucial chance was perhaps that of Sehwag on the final day in Adelaide: he was dropped on 2 by Michael Clarke, and went on to score 151 - perhaps the scoreline would have read 3-1 if not for that error.
Gilchrist didn't have a great series behind the stumps - he even admitted the edge he dropped off Laxman in Adelaide on the same day he snatched the world record for most dismissals finally made him believe it was time to bid adieu. He spilled four during India's first innings in Sydney. Clarke was the other sloppy fielder: he dropped five in the series, including two at first slip, one at second, and one at gully.