Australia v India, 3rd Test, Melbourne, 4th day December 29, 2003

'A dream come true' - Williams

Brad Williams: getting into the groove at the MCG
© Getty Images

Brad Williams, who watched his first Boxing Day Test at the MCG while still a kid, admitted that he had goosebumps as he walked off the field to sustained applause after having scalped four Indian batsmen for 53 on what may turn out to be the pivotal day of this engrossing Test series.

"I was about nine, and what I remember is that there were a lot of people. I couldn't even tell you which game it was ... I was about 15 when I thought I had a little bit of ability, but to come and do well here is a dream come true," said Williams, who left Victoria and the MCG for Western Australia in 1999, in search of better opportunities.

Williams was a surprise pick ahead of Andy Bichel for this game and he confessed that he hadn't been sure where he stood with the team management in the lead-up to the game. "Bichel bowled really well at Adelaide, and Nathan Bracken's been in good form of late. So it was just fingers crossed." Asked if the uncertainty had affected him, he said, "Not really. You're prepared to play no matter what. Anything can happen ... someone can get injured during the warm-up ... "

He said Australia had reaped the rewards after containing the Indian batsmen for the opening two sessions. "At the start of the day, we wanted to maintain the pressure. They got away a little bit after tea, but we were able to pull it back."

He was candid in his assessment of Rahul Dravid's batting, saying, "He's a very patient player. If you over attack him, he'll hit the bad ball for four. Mentally, he's very switched on. He's made a lot of runs in this series, and maybe we need to come up with a new plan for him."

Williams said that the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar was "always a good one to get, since he's one of the world's best batsmen". Asked whether the delivery slightly wide of off stump had been part of a plan, he laughed and said, "It was my plan, I'm not sure if it was in the team plan. I just tried to get him driving."

Williams started the day dramatically enough, striking Sourav Ganguly on the back on the head half-an-hour into the morning. "You don't want to see anyone get seriously hurt on a cricket field. But I didn't expect him to walk off, didn't think it was that bad at the time. I'd felt a bit flat on the first day, but this morning, I came out firing."

Dravid, whose epic 244-ball 92 spanned most of the day, reckoned India would need a miracle to leave Melbourne unbeaten. "It would've been nice to get a 100 more runs," he said. "Till tea, they were very disciplined. They sussed out the pitch, bowled the right length. We broke the shackles a little after that, but they came back well to take wickets with the new ball."

'The wrong time to lose a wicket': Rahul Dravid is dismissed by Brett Lee for 92

Dravid said it had been an uphill struggle for most of the day, as India started 165 in arrears. "It was never comfortable. When me and Sourav were going well, there was a bit of hope. But to be honest, we needed something special to happen, an Eden Gardens or an Adelaide. And those things don't happen everyday."

As in the first innings, Dravid's dismissal was crucial, signalling the start of an Indian collapse. "I just think it was the wrong time to lose a wicket," he said ruefully. "In the first innings too, we lost our last six wickets cheaply."

That first innings collapse appeared to be a turning point at the time, and with Australia now poised to square the series and go to Sydney on even terms, it takes on even greater significance. For want of a nail, a kingdom was lost, or so we were taught when kids. For want of a tail, a Test match - series too? - was lost, would be more appropriate in today's circumstances.

Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo. He will be following the Indian team throughout the course of this series.