Test Match

INDIA v AUSTRALIA

At Delhi, October 10, 11, 12, 13. India won by seven wickets. Toss: Australia. Test debuts: D. J. Johnson; G. B. Hogg.

Conspiracy theories were inevitable once the bone-dry, fractured and shifting pitch was revealed at this neglected and unprepossessing ground. Would such a substandard pitch have been presented had Shane Warne recovered from delicate finger surgery in time to play? Taylor chose to bat on what could have been mistaken for a third-day strip, but suspicions about the pitch seemed to dominate Australian thinking, and his team's inability to concentrate irritated Taylor beyond measure. He had built his pre-match strategy around the need for occupation of the crease.

In fact Australia were bowled out in 73 overs on the opening day, eight of their wickets falling to spin, and the only man to heed Taylor's advice was their opponents' makeshift opener, Mongia. He constructed a memorable 152 and thus ensured that India's new captain, Tendulkar, would maintain the team's unbeaten record in home Test series since March 1987. An ebullient man, given to incessant appealing when keeping wicket, at the crease Mongia was calm, disciplined and accomplished. This was his maiden Test century, in his 13th match. He held sway for eight hours and 17 minutes to ensure a handsome lead of 179. Given the conditions, that made India unbeatable.

Ganguly and Steve Waugh were the only other batsmen to manage half-centuries, which was testimony to the magnitude of Mongia's performance. Waugh batted for 273 minutes at his second attempt - nine minutes longer than the entire Australian first innings - and remained unconquered on 67 as Kumble and Prasad ran through his team-mates. In the absence of Warne, Kumble carried the standard for the suddenly ubiquitous art of wrist-spin, taking nine wickets for 130 in the match. He had Kapoor and Joshi for company, but Taylor had to turn to leg-spinner McIntyre, playing in only his second Test, and the debutant left-arm wrist-spinner Brad Hogg. McIntyre bowled steadily but without variation or much imagination. Consequently, Taylor had to lean on the tireless pace bowler McGrath, who caused some mutterings by aggressively testing Ganguly's technique and temperament against the shorter-pitched delivery, and also pressed occasional off-spinner Mark Waugh into service.

Though he had no reason to recall the match as a batsman - he scored ten and nought - Tendulkar revealed himself to be a thoughtful and aggressive captain. The Australians were subdued and haunted by the realisation they had failed Allan Border when competing for a trophy partly named in honour of their mate and mentor. But Tendulkar had the satisfaction of becoming the first Indian captain to beat Australia since his own mentor and the other cricketer commemorated by the trophy, Sunil Gavaskar, in 1980-81. There was some hope that India's victory over the generally acknowledged Test champions, completed with a day to spare, would lift the profile of Test cricket in a country obsessed with the shortened from of the game.

Man of the Match: N. R. Mongia.

Close of play:First day, India 57-1 (N. R. Mongia 26*, S. C. Ganguly 19*); Second day, India 319-6 (N. R. Mongia 137*, A. R. Kapoor 8*); Third day, Australia 168-6 (S. R. Waugh 32*, G. B. Hogg 3*).

© John Wisden & Co