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Toss: India. Test debuts: Harbhajan Singh; A. C. Dale, D. S. Lehmann.
Few Tests - at least in the modern era of covered pitches - have ended decisively after both sides have scored 400 in the first innings, and fewer still inside four days to boot. Though India batted poorly the second time, the positive approach of both teams contributed to the speedy finish.
Australia's victory was especially laudable given their growing injury list. Steve Waugh, their staunchest batsman, had not recovered after the Second Test and was replaced by newcomer Darren Lehmann. Reiffel and Wilson had returned home for treatment and Damien Fleming, who had been flown out, fell ill; Adam Dale, a fast-medium bowler, filled the vacancy. India had one fitness problem, but a major one: Srinath had a side strain, so Harvinder Singh returned. India also omitted Chauhan and picked another off-spinner, 17-year-old Harbhajan Singh.
Although India, batting first on a slow pitch, formed only two substantial partnerships, they ran up 424 in a little over four sessions. Impetus and substance came from Sidhu, who hit eight fours and three sixes, and then Tendulkar, who scored 177 out of 281 added while he was in, with 29 fours and three sixes. He put on 139 with an indisposed Azharuddin, who was, by his standards, subdued. But Tendulkar was impossible to contain, especially on the second morning, when he scored 60 in 64 balls. He fell to his own excesses, when he tried to hoist a straight ball from Dale to mid-wicket and was bowled. Dale had earlier accounted for Ganguly, who was suspended for one match after showing his disapproval when given lbw.
Taylor called on seven bowlers, but depended heavily on Kasprowicz, who bowled a fuller length than previously, and Warne, who bowled well even though the pitch was short of pace and bounce. Warne's dismissal of Dravid - which made him Test cricket's most successful spinner, carrying him past Lance Gibbs's 309 wickets - was a classic. The ball drifted and dipped on to leg stump, then spun away to hit off. Minutes earlier, he had bowled Sidhu, and he added Mongia through a magnificent catch at cover by Ponting.
Australia replied with urgency matching India's, and the pattern of their innings was remarkably similar; they, too, had only three major contributions, with Mark Waugh's delightful 153 not out the highest. The fact that Waugh had a gastric disorder added to the merit of his innings. He batted responsibly, yet was free with all manner of strokes, hitting 13 fours and four sixes. Lehmann, who joined him at an awkward 143 for three, was admirably unbothered for a debutant, and made 52 with élan. Earlier, Taylor, caught behind square-cutting, and Blewett, bowled allowing for non-existent turn, had failed again. But Slater, using his feet to the spinners, excelled at last with a boisterous 91 off 117 balls, including 15 fours and two sixes.
It helped that, without Srinath, most of India's attack was mediocre. Kumble, who took six for 98, was both hostile and economical, however, and young Harbhajan, fortified by an early wicket, bravely faced the aggression of Slater and Waugh. Azharuddin took his 100th catch in his 91st Test. Beginning their second innings after tea, just 24 ahead, India finished the third day on 99 for three wickets, all lost in search of quick runs. Within 45 minutes next morning, Kasprowicz swung the balance in Australia's favour. He caught and bowled Tendulkar with a slower ball and bowled Azharuddin with a yorker, throwing the Indians into disarray; later, he returned to rout the tail. Australia were left 194 to win, and their openers knocked off 91 of them. Taylor ended a dreadful series in style, with an accomplished 102 not out that guaranteed a consolation victory.
Man of the Match: M. S. Kasprowicz. Man of the Series: S. R. Tendulkar.
Close of play: First day, India 290-4 (S. R. Tendulkar 117*, S. C. Ganguly 17*); Second day, Australia 209-3 (M. E. Waugh 58*, D. S. Lehmann 35*); Third day, India 99-3 (S. R. Tendulkar 27*, M. Azharuddin 4*).
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