India v Australia, 3rd Test, Mohali, 5th day March 18, 2013

Australia left to find dignified departure

The Border-Gavaskar trophy may be lost but Australia have one more game to regain some pride. But that will be easier said than done

In the United States, lame-duck presidents must remain in office for two months before their successors are sworn in. They hold the title in name only until the scheduled handover at inauguration day. The Australians must have felt a bit like that ever since MS Dhoni destroyed them with his double-century last month. Technically, the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was theirs until the final afternoon in Mohali but a change of hands was inevitable. The only question was how long it would take. The answer was 13 days of cricket.

For the first two days of the series the Australians were right in the contest but they soon lost sight of the trophy in the Chennai dust. They never really saw it again. In that first Test it was Dhoni who demoralised them, in Hyderabad it was Cheteshwar Pujara and M Vijay in a 370-run partnership and in Mohali it was Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan, who compiled 289 together. There were other factors, of course, but these were the decisive elements in India's triumph, the antidote to their 4-0 humiliation in Australia in 2011-12.

And now, a similarly embarrassing scoreline looms for Michael Clarke's Australians. Should they lose in Delhi, on what is expected to be a raging turner, it will be only the second time a team has swept all four Tests in a series against Australia. The first was in 1969-70, when the awful result in South Africa cost Bill Lawry the captaincy. There will be no such bloodshed this time; Clarke has done what he could with limited resources. But that doesn't make the outcome any less painful for the players.

At least there were some encouraging signs in Mohali. Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle found swing and toiled manfully, Phillip Hughes broke through his spin barrier on the fourth day, Ed Cowan played another long, patient innings and Steven Smith showed that Clarke is not the only classy player of spin in the squad. But again Australia were clearly outplayed by India and the late finish on the fifth afternoon must be viewed in context: the entire first day was washed out.

Australia nearly escaped with a draw but they would have been lucky to do so. Dhoni's defensive batting as the target inched closer might have added some tension for the viewers, but there was always the sense he could end it any time he wanted. Three consecutive boundaries confirmed that. Just when Australia got their hopes up, Dhoni reminded them that India were in complete control. It has been that way all through the series.

A greater second-innings effort would have improved Australia's chances of securing a draw but not for the first time their top order was shown up by the tail.

A greater second-innings effort would have improved Australia's chances but not for the first time their top order was shown up by the tail. In their second innings in Chennai, the last-wicket stand of 66 between Nathan Lyon and Moises Henriques was easily the best of the innings. Here again the lower order fought and it was unsatisfactory that the ninth- and tenth-wicket partnerships - 36 between Starc and Brad Haddin and 44 from Starc and Xavier Doherty - were the best of the innings.

Falling to outstanding bowling is one thing, but the way David Warner flashed and edged behind in the first over was reckless. Henriques also frittered away his wicket with an uppish drive off Ravindra Jadeja. It was a wonderful return catch that got Henriques but a tame shot to offer the chance. Henriques started the series brilliantly in Chennai but since then has scored 5, 0, 0 and 2, and taken 1 for 107. His Chennai credits will last only so long and he might find himself making way for Glenn Maxwell on the spinning Delhi pitch.

There are all sorts of selection questions and possible permutations to be considered over the next three days. Clarke's back injury is central to the make-up of the side, for if he is ruled out it will likely mean a straight swap for Shane Watson, who flew out of Australia on Tuesday to rejoin the squad. The success of Hughes and Smith in Mohali will probably mean Usman Khawaja remains on the sidelines. If Clarke does play, someone else will be squeezed out to accommodate Watson - likely to be Hughes or Smith.

Matthew Wade was put through some wicketkeeping drills on the field during lunch on the final day in Mohali and could take the gloves back from Haddin after missing the Test due to his sprained ankle. James Pattinson will return after his enforced one-match lay-off and will likely share the bowling duties with Starc, Siddle and either Lyon or Doherty. But whatever XI Australia assemble, they will have their work cut out to avoid a whitewash.

They showed admirable fight on the last day in Mohali and while the result was closer than the first two Tests, there is much still to work on. The trophy is gone but one match remains for the Australians - under either Clarke or Watson - to regain some pride. That will be easier said than done.

India's average first-innings score in this series is 524; Australia's is 341. India's partnerships average 48.88; Australia's average is 27.45. It is obvious to anyone who has watched the three Tests that India have comprehensively outplayed Australia with bat and ball, but the sheer disparity in those numbers is startling all the same. There is no need for a recount. The best these lame ducks can hope for now is a dignified departure.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 20, 2013, 4:24 GMT

    @ImpartialObserver - I like your use of irony in your user name, it's cool. Now, what on earth are you talking about? England just went to India and won the series! It sounds to me that you are an Indian fan who is resentful of that fact. If you're theory is correct (and it isn't - it's piffle) then consider the logic; England don't care about playing India, and don't even try - yet they've beaten them in 7 out of their last 8 meetings in test cricket. Wow.. imagine if they could actually be bothered to bring their A game. Hilarious - you've managed to construct an argument where even if you're right you're wrong. That takes skill. I do agree on one point - Australia are great competitors across all forms of the game and whenever they take the field they intend to compete and win. As an Englishman living in Australia I can confirm that's the Aussie way. Give 100% whatever the situation - and I agree it shows respect... so you're right there.

  • Lewis on March 20, 2013, 3:39 GMT

    @Mary agree with you fully I would get Pattinson, Khawaja and Watson into the 4th test without any hesitation. Also the batsmen get the benefit of the doubt from the umpires and on third umpire issues like run-outs and grassed catches. This happens because the umpire has not yet made his call. When it comes to DRS or checking no-balls the benefit of the doubt goes to the umpire as you are seeking to overturn his original call. In this specific case the umpire clearly decided to let it go otherwise he would have called no-ball, therefore the third umpire was judging whether or not the on-field umpires initial call was correct. There was not conclusive evidence to overturn it so the original decision stood

  • donavan on March 20, 2013, 1:28 GMT

    this series further exposed auz in-ability to battle spinners on similiarly freindly tracks. India, having already won this series, should send their A team to finish things off. No point in sending full strength team to clean things up (the final game being a dead rubber)

  • Andrew on March 19, 2013, 23:17 GMT

    @Gautam N. Shenoy: Not quite true, Chris Hartley is widely regarded as one of the best glovemen in the world, but he comitted the unforgivable sin of being born in Queensland and even worse, he plays for Queensland.

  • Dummy4 on March 19, 2013, 18:20 GMT

    "They showed admirable fight on the last day in Mohali and while the result was closer than the first two Tests, there is much still to work on. "

    This was a result in 4 days! The only reason why the match went deep into Day 5 was because of Day 1 being washed away. Having said that, have to appreciate Clarke and his sportsmanship for not using any delaying tactics even late into the evening on Day 5.

  • Dummy4 on March 19, 2013, 18:18 GMT

    @Jose Puliampatta: Good observation. The point is, Aussie selectors know that Haddin is a very average wicket keeper while being a batsman with an average technique and the temperament of a genuine tailender. So they have been continuously looking for a replacement for him. The replacements have either failed (as the Aussies cupboards in every department except fast bowling is bare) Paine-fully or just finding their feet before Wade-ing into action. Some Aussie fans here have expressed the desire to get Hadd-in as he is experienced (a euphemism for aged) and for the same reason, the selectors keep going back to him as the stop gap keeper till they can find their next Gil-Christ the redeemer (yeah, right!). If you ask me, the only meaningful contribution Haddin has ever made in a match is when he got the wicket of Neil Broom "bowling" him from behind the stumps. Even after that, Aussies lost that match. Expect more rounds of musical chairs in the meanwhile..

  • Dummy4 on March 19, 2013, 15:47 GMT

    Coverdale's report says; "Mathew Wade was put through some wicketkeeping drills on the field during lunch on the final day in Mohali and could take the gloves back from Haddin after missing the Test due to his sprained ankle"

    Reaction: After Gilly, all sorts of things are happening behind the wicket for OZ. Haddin,.. in ... Hadd-out... Then, for a while, thanks to Ricky's preference, we saw some Paine behind the wicket. When the Paine subsided, again Haddin ...Hadd-out. Then Mathew Waded in and Waded out with a sprained angle. Now, yet another round of Haddin... Hadd-out! Mathew might Wade back in?. I feel dizzy watching the "round-robbin"/ "musical chairs"/ "rotation policy"... or what?

  • Anindya on March 19, 2013, 15:36 GMT

    Going through the comments posted by Aussie fans,well they got all the reason for frustration but thats what happen with a team in transation, its not easy to replace the kind of Ponting,Waugh, Warne, Mcgrath, Gilchrist and so on, but as far as I remember, apart from Mark Waugh and Lee and Clarke none of the Aussie great of 90s and 2000s got off to a good start,Steve,Glenn,Shane,Hayden, Gilchrist didnt become great in a span of one or two game, who knows may be Henrique, Pattionson, Stark might become world beaters in coming future. Just hope for for the best and as far as India is concern still long way to, especially in pace bowling department but the batting looks good as of now, wish them all the best for 4th test and future endevours.

  • Robert on March 19, 2013, 14:05 GMT

    To all the Indian fans saying that India won inside 4 days, may want to check the match. Yes the first day was washed out, BUT as a result of this an extra half hour was added to each of the next four days, giving and exta 8-9 overs each day as most of these were bowled by spinners. Take these 30 or so overs away and India would not have even got a second innings to bat!! In saying that Australia have been totally outplayed by India in all formats of the game who most definitely deserve to be up 3-0.

  • Vicky on March 19, 2013, 13:14 GMT

    @crickketlover - Normally I am not a frequent poster on CI but your post just passed the absurdity boundary. Suppose we talk in "Ifs" if God had made it rain continuous 2 days were wouldn't be staring at 3-0 result.

    Frankly I had given up on the Indian team because of the selectors continually selecting "out of form" players who could do nothing but talk aka Gambhir and Sehwag. With the middle order floundering we dint need useless openers. I am still not entirely sure about Ishant Sharma.

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