Third Test

Australia v India 2007-08

Greg Baum

At Perth, January 16, 17, 18, 19, 2008. India won by 72 runs. Toss: India. Test debut: C. J. L. Rogers.

This was a memorable match for India, who turned the tables to inflict Australia's first Test defeat at the WACA since 1996-97, and their first on home soil since India won in Adelaide in December 2003. It meant that Ponting's search for a 17th consecutive Test victory, to beat Australia's own world record of 16, was derailed by India, just as Steve Waugh's side had been at Kolkata in 2000-01. To complete a wonderful game for Anil Kumble, India's captain, he became only the third bowler to take 600 Test wickets.

Few foresaw this defeat, particularly while the home camp was trumpeting in the lead-up that the pitch had regained its fearsome pace and bounce of former years. It had not, but a very good cricket wicket produced four enthralling days' play. For India to become the first Asian side to win in what had historically been Australia's stronghold was a notable achievement, leading Kumble to describe the victory as one of the very best of his Test career. It also helped wipe away some of the bitterness that had marred the days since the dramatic events of the Sydney game.

Australia, whose on-field conduct showed a marked improvement, were comprehensively outplayed, their pace bowlers out-swung by their Indian counterparts. From the first hour, when Wasim Jaffer and the recalled Sehwag piled on 56 in 12 overs, things did not go to plan for Ponting. Confused by a south-easterly wind, he used Lee and Johnson at the wrong ends, and did not introduce the raw pace of Tait until 20 minutes before lunch. It was the first time in 16 years that Australia had played four fast bowlers without a specialist spinner, but Ponting entrusted Tait with only 21 overs in the match: he was dropped for the next Test, and announced shortly afterwards that, aged 24, he was taking an extended break from cricket. Dravid, badly dropped by Clarke at first slip off Lee when 11, played his most fluent innings of the series. He and Tendulkar, whose classy 71 was ended by a poor decision, laid an important platform with a third-wicket stand of 139 in 38 overs.

Although Australia did well to restrict India to 330 after that good start, their attack, bowling quicker and a little shorter, did not swing the ball as much or as late as India's two left-armers. The recalled Pathan removed both openers in his second over - Chris Rogers, the 399th man to wear the baggy green, was making his debut as Matthew Hayden had not recovered from a hamstring injury - before R. P. Singh became the first bowler to dismiss Hussey for a duck in a Test. Sharma also played his part, finding the edges of Ponting and Clarke with a pair of good leg-cutters. Symonds, dropped by Tendulkar at first slip off Pathan when three, shared in a recovery of sorts with Gilchrist: they put on 102 in 17 overs before Symonds became Kumble's 600th victim when, surprised by extra bounce, he was caught at slip. Australia's total was their lowest in the first innings in 24 home Tests, and their worst anywhere since making 190 at Lord's in 2005.

Excellent bowling from Lee and Clark dragged their side back into the match. When Pathan, the nightwatchman, was sixth out at 160, the lead was only 278, but Laxman - well supported by Dhoni and Singh in stands of 75 and 51 - effectively took the game out of Australia's reach with a pragmatic, battling 79 in just under four hours. Needing to score 413, more than they had ever managed batting last, Australia again lost both openers to Pathan's new-ball spell, each edging out-swingers. A big innings from Ponting was essential to his side's hopes, but Sharma, in a magnificent spell on the fourth morning, had him caught at first slip. When Gilchrist was sixth out at 227, bowled round his legs trying to sweep Sehwag's first ball to him, the outcome was inevitable. Clarke went soon afterwards for a fluent 81, before a maiden Test half-century from Johnson made India's victory margin look less emphatic than it really was.

The Australians' disappointment at missing out on that record 17th win in a row was compounded by a 10% match-fee fine for an abysmal over-rate. Fear of a suspension for Ponting, who was fined 20% as captain, compelled him to use his part-time spinners more than he would have liked in the second innings.

Man of the Match: I. K. Pathan.

© John Wisden & Co.