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At Mumbai, November 3, 4, 5, 2004. India won by 13 runs. Toss: India. Test debuts: G. Gambhir, K. D. Karthik; N. M. Hauritz.
India won a thrilling match by a wafer-thin margin to release some of the pressure that had been building on them, though the circumstances surrounding their victory detracted from the celebrations. It was achieved on a pitch which turned square from the start and saw 20 wickets fall on the third and final day after 18 had tumbled on the second. "The wicket was no way near to being Test standard," said Ponting, Australia's returning captain. "Forty wickets in two days is almost unheard of. It's been a fantastic series but this has left a sour taste." Even some Indian players agreed.
India, desperate, shook up their personnel. The left-handed opening bat Gautam Gambhir from Delhi and the Tamil Nadu wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik came in for their Test debuts in place of Chopra and Patel, who had both lost form and all confidence. Harbhajan returned for Agarkar. Meanwhile, Australia had to do without Warne, who broke his right thumb batting in the nets on the eve of the match. MacGill, the experienced leg-spinner, had been on stand-by for Warne but the lateness of the injury made his call-up impossible. Australia's planning had been meticulous but here, without a seasoned back-up slow bowler, they were exposed. Nathan Hauritz, a tyro off-spinner, played in Warne's place and the switch almost certainly cost them the match. Hauritz bowled tidily, but it was not enough on a pitch so conducive to the spinner's art that the part-timer Clarke took six wickets for nine runs with his slow left-armers.
Ponting returned after missing the first three games through injury. He was anxious to make a belated mark on the series, and also to atone for his wretched experience on his previous tour, when he scored just 17 runs in five innings. It was not to be, and he even lost the toss, breaking Gilchrist's winning sequence. Australia, set 107 to win, were bowled out for 93. As at Headingley in 1981 or Sydney in 1993-94 - to name only the two most memorable examples - a minuscule fourth-innings target was beyond them.
Play had not got under way until 2 p.m. on the first day and lasted just four overs before it was delayed again until 4.30, when they returned for another half hour. Rain had been the problem but they ultimately came off because of the unevenness of the floodlighting, and the difficulties the batsmen had in picking up the red ball in the damp gloom. On the second day India were bundled out for 104 in under 42 overs, with Dravid's unbeaten 31 the only resistance. Tendulkar's 35-ball innings included just one positive stroke. Gillespie was the main destroyer, with four for 29. Australia then placed themselves in a winning position when they scored 203, although only Martyn, with another half-century, played the spinners with any assurance.
When India batted again, Tendulkar briefly found his form for the first time in the series and prospered with Laxman, promoted in the order so his strokeplay could make the most of the harder ball. Their total of 205 gave their bowlers an outside chance. Langer fell to the second ball of Australia's second innings, caught behind off Zaheer, but at 24 for one, with Ponting and Hayden taking the attack to the bowlers, it was difficult to see them losing. Ponting was second out, caught at slip off Kartik, and Martyn fell lbw in the same over. Australia still appeared to be on course even when Katich was fourth out at 33. But that changed when they lost two more at 48. Hayden was bowled off his pads and Clarke was deceived by the arm ball as he backed away to cut. It was 58 for seven when Gilchrist swept to deep square leg and, although Gillespie battled hard, it was all over when Glenn McGrath got an outside edge. "No. 11 is the most difficult place to bat because my good innings are always nipped in the bud by others getting out," McGrath had complained a few days before.
Man of the Match: M. Kartik. Man of the Series: D. R. Martyn.