'We believed we could win the Test' - Clarke
Australia's captain Michael Clarke has said that a defensive, time-wasting mindset never entered his thinking as India slowly cruised to a six-wicket victory that won them the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Mohali. After Australia were bowled out in the second session on day five, it left India chasing 133 in a minimum of 27 overs and while Clarke could have employed delaying tactics to ensure Australia did not give India any extra time, his focus was firmly on pushing for victory himself.
India's innings began approximately half an hour before tea, meaning that even if Australia had used only their fast bowlers it would have been a struggle to bowl only the minimum 12 overs before the start of the final hour. Instead, Clarke rotated his bowlers quite normally and got through an extra nine overs, which meant that in the end India had 36 overs to chase their target. They got there in the 34th.
A draw would have been nothing but a consolation for Clarke's men, who needed a victory in order to stay alive in the series and retain any hope of keeping the Border-Gavaskar Trophy following their losses in Chennai and Hyderabad. Although India never looked in serious trouble, they did lose four wickets along the way and Clarke said breakthroughs were not only Australia's only path to victory but the best way of restricting the runs.
"We still believed that we could win the Test," Clarke said. "We thought there were going to be opportunities to take wickets, knowing that India were going to have to score at a decent pace. In that first hour when we went out and bowled we could have taken as much time as possible, wasted time to slow the scoring and not bowl many overs because I knew once 3.30 came around, we had to bowl 15 overs in the last hour.
"But I don't think that's the way we play our cricket. We try to win and unfortunately that wasn't the case. We couldn't get a draw, so we deal with a loss. But I think our players deserve a lot of credit for the way they tried their best. Our fast bowlers worked their absolute backsides off and we were very close to hanging on for a draw.
"It was all about taking wickets. We had to try to win the Test match and even if you defend, the best form of defence is taking wickets. If you want to slow scoring whether it be in T20, one-day cricket or Tests taking wickets is the best way to slow the scoring and that was our goal, with 130 on the board you never know what can happen in this game but I think the boys showed a lot of fight and deserve credit for that."
Australia's fight with the ball was worthy of credit but the lack of a big hundred from any of their batsmen in either innings was again costly. Australia's first innings of 408 looked good until India posted 499, and the difference was that Shikhar Dhawan and M Vijay both passed 150 and put on a 289-run stand, while Australia's innings featured four scores above 70 but none of them turned into triple-figures.
Conceding huge partnerships and failing to build their own have both been ongoing issues for the Australians in this series. In Chennai, MS Dhoni scored a double-century and put on 140 for the ninth wicket with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, which turned the match, and in Hyderabad Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara compiled 370 together. Australia's highest stand of the series is 151 by Clarke and Moises Henriques in Chennai, and Clarke's hundred there is Australia's only one of the trip. India's batsmen have made six tons.
"Credit needs to go to the India batters, that's for sure, and as a batting unit that's what we're trying to do as well," Clarke said. "We're making just as many fifties as India but nowhere near as many hundreds. We have to be more disciplined once we get to fifty, to stay nice and patient, swim between the flags I guess and go on and make a big score.
"But I think their batters throughout this series have made the most of conditions. Again in their first innings they are making big scores. I think in the last two Test matches we've shown if we can break that partnership, we've bowled really well. Apart from the first partnership the other nine wickets fell for 210 runs for us, which was a really good sign for us. And it was similar in the second innings. It's just breaking that big partnership that we need to keep working on."
This was the sixth consecutive Test Australia have lost in India and at 3-0 with one match remaining, the series has been by far the worst under Clarke's leadership. Australia won 3-0 at home to Sri Lanka this summer after fighting hard against South Africa but losing 1-0, and Clarke said the team would need to find ways of handling foreign conditions and not just being a threat at home.
"I think it's probably a very fair indication of where both teams are at," Clarke said of the 3-0 scoreline. "I don't want to talk for India. But for the Australian team it's probably a fair indication. We're playing some really good, consistent cricket at home back in Australia, in conditions we're very used to, very accustomed to, but we're not performing as well as we'd like when we go overseas in conditions we're not used to.
"That's an area we've spoken about as a group for a while now, over the past 12 months. We continue to work hard on that. As disappointing as it is that we can't level the series now that we're 3-0 down, I think the players individually and the team have learnt a lot over the first three Test matches. We'd love to go home with a win in this last Test in Delhi."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here