December 14, 1999

Australia wrap it up quickly

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Since the 1993/94 season, Australia has not lost a Test series at home and India not won one away. Accordingly, it was probably to be expected that the first match of their three Test battle in Australia would provide the platform for the home team to flex its considerable contemporary cricketing muscle. And so it proved here at the Adelaide Oval; the locals today putting the seal on a comprehensive 285 run victory.

As it eventuated, play on the final day only lasted a mere 54 minutes. Overnight batsmen Saurav Ganguly (43) and MSK Prasad (11) battled gamely through the first 20 of those but, after that, the sparse crowd of 4717 witnessed little more than a procession. Once the former was out hooking at Damien Fleming, presenting Adam Gilchrist with the chance to take a brilliant one-handed catch down leg side in the process, there was indeed precious little resistance. Fleming (5/30) rapidly became the star for the home side, capturing four of the five wickets to fall today and ending not only with a third five wicket haul at this level but his finest ever Test figures no less.

On a wearing pitch, the Australians only required Fleming and fellow paceman Glenn McGrath (3/35) to bowl today, those two wholly exposing the breaches that had been made evident in the Indians' defences last evening. Around McGrath's dismissal of Javagal Srinath (11), Fleming captured four wickets for seven runs in the space of 23 deliveries in an excellent performance. There was, however, time for one moment of extreme disappointment in between.

After removing Ganguly and Ajit Agarkar (0) with successive deliveries, the speedster was on the verge of the rare feat of a second Test hat-trick to complement one taken in Pakistan in 1994. But, in an extraordinary scene, the Victorian had his hopes dashed when Shane Warne at first slip grassed a regulation catch offered to him by a slashing Srinath.

Against an opponent with a record away from home as poor as their own on home soil is brilliant, this was by the end another emphatic triumph for the Australians. A result which extended their winning sequence to the impressive tally of five in this form of the game and the clinically slick efficiency by which it was underpinned, it was typical of an outfit rapidly and deservedly beginning to comparisons with some of the great all-time Test match teams. Gloss will certainly be taken off the win in some quarters on account of the fact that several close decisions went against the Indians but it is hard not to accept the fact that the bottom line here was that the Australians' performance was simply too polished and too ruthlessly convincing for its foe.

Fleming's post-match comment that the Australians did not merely want to win this game but also wanted to do so "on a big note" was a perfect indicator of the mindset, the unity and the sheer professionalism of this team.

In the opposite camp, it is hard to imagine that anything but the opposite mood would be prevailing. They will have come to Adelaide with high hopes of acquitting themselves well on a ground generally suited to batsmen, but they will be leaving one down in the series with tough back to back matches to follow in Melbourne and Sydney. Whilst they bravely attempted to defy the inevitable, there will be many points for them to rue at the end of this contest. Among these, it should be their act of wanton self destruction after lunch on the first day upon which they focus most sharply. It was then that they surrendered the initiative to the Australians (an initiative they never wrested back at any stage) in permitting Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting to resurrect a cause which showed some signs of teetering at 4/52. Captain Sachin Tendulkar remained typically gracious and upbeat in defeat, stating that his team still has "a good chance" in the series, but he will well recognise that it will take a supreme effort for his team to launch a swift turnaround.

Notwithstanding the notion that its one-sided nature rendered this a game which will not necessarily assume any great place in history, this was a Test which will ultimately come to provide several different talking points. Foremost among these will be the worth of the two decisions made by umpire Harper to fire out Tendulkar and the prospect (rightly or wrongly) of having umpires exclusively from 'neutral' countries officiating at Test level in the future. Although the Australian selection panel has illustrated an extreme reluctance in recent times to axe players from its outfit, it might also even be remembered as the last match of No 4 batsman Mark Waugh's lengthy Test career.