At Adelaide, January 24-28, 2012. Australia won by 298 runs. Toss: Australia.
When missions are accomplished as quickly as Australia's was in Perth, there is extra time for recuperation and, in India's case, rumination. For the Australians, it meant Siddle and Hilfenhaus avoided being rested for the final Test under a rotation system that is fashionable among administrators but hated by insatiable fast bowlers. It would have been a brave selector who asked the reformed Siddle to sit out, for he had India by the scruff of the neck, and he was rewarded for sustained excellence with his first five-wicket haul for the summer.
After Perth, Clarke said the words "dead rubber" had been struck from his vocabulary, so there was no discernible change to Australia's approach other than to leave out the junior member of the pace quartet, Mitchell Starc, to accommodate Lyon, the developing spinner. Worryingly, the extra days' soul-searching did not change India's approach much either. Laxman survived, leaving uncapped starlet Rohit Sharma to cool his heels again. That the super-confident Kohli became his team's only centurion for the series, and finished the Tests with more runs than any of India's batting champions, amplified calls for generational change.
Two days before the Test, Gambhir had vented the prevailing mood in the Indian camp, which went something like: "Wait until you're on our patch, then we'll see how good you are." In fact, the Adelaide Oval was as close as India would come to the comforts of home, and still it made no difference, except to drag the match into a fifth day.
India did have a different captain - Sehwag deputised for Dhoni, suspended because of a slow over-rate at Perth - but after an adventurous first half-hour he allowed the match to fall into a familiar pattern. Australia's batting wobbled, to 84 for three, before Ponting and Clarke comfortably surpassed even their epic Sydney union, where they had added 288. Their 386-run stand was the biggest partnership in the history of Adelaide Tests, surpassing the 341 put on by South Africa's Eddie Barlow and Graeme Pollock in 1963-64, and Australia's fourth-highest anywhere.
While Clarke danced to 210 in six hours 20 minutes, joining Don Bradman (in the 1930 and 1934 Ashes) and Wally Hammond (in New Zealand, 1932-33) as the only men to make a triple-century and a double in the same series, Ponting batted as if suddenly remembering all the virtuoso shots that were out of tune before his redemptive century in Sydney. He punched drives off front and back foot, and rocked into pulls on the way to his sixth Test double-hundred, passing 13,000 runs in the process. In all, he batted for eight hours 36 minutes and faced 404 balls in his 41st three-figure score in Tests.
Sehwag's masterstroke had been to bring on spinner Ashwin in the fourth over. Having watched Warner obliterate the new ball at Perth, India now took the pace off it. Recalled in place of Vinay Kumar after missing out at the WACA, Ashwin tested his patience; Warner played out two maidens and was leg-before to Zaheer shortly after. But from the moment Ponting and Clarke joined forces under a baking sun, the Indian bowling and fielding unravelled. On 35, Clarke edged Ishant Sharma to where first slip should have been, but instead Sehwag had a man floating at second. Soon after lunch on the first day, the cordon was vacant; soon after tea on the second, Clarke declared.
India's response followed a predictable script, with one exception: Kohli. The constant was Siddle, whose five for 49 delivered the ultimate validation for a bowler whose heart was never questioned, but whose apparent limitations had been exposed by England a year earlier. Having previously smothered India's batsmen with a fuller length and consistent swing, Siddle now moved the ball off the pitch. He removed three of the top four, including Tendulkar for the third time in the series. But he drew special satisfaction from bouncing out Gambhir, whose pre-match observation that Siddle was a lesser bowler outside his own backyard was a serious underestimate of his improvement.
Kohli's innings will be remembered for the war of words that had simmered since Sydney and the profanity he shouted upon raising his first Test century. This was a shame, because his batting was full of fight - he defied the relentless quicks for almost four hours - and styled with stunning square-drives and confident pulls. His 114-run partnership with stand-in wicketkeeper Wriddhaman Saha was India's second-biggest of the series. On 99, Kohli was almost run out attempting a crazy single, and later unloaded on Hilfenhaus for sledging him. "He just said something which I can't repeat, obviously, in the press conference," Kohli said. "To give it back verbally and then score a hundred is even better." Hilfenhaus got his man in the end, and on the fourth evening sent the Australians into raptures when he ran out Kohli in the second innings as India lurched towards defeat. In between, Haddin gave his series figures a more respectable sheen, batting Australia to a declaration for the second time in the match, but there was no such relief for Marsh, who recorded his third duck and was promptly dropped from the one-day squad.
India were set exactly 500 to win, and almost five sessions to save the match. On both counts it was too much to ask of a side bereft of inspiration. The laconic Lyon, confined to a bit-part role for much of the series, emerged with four for 63 at the ground where he used to mow the outfield. He hid his face in mock embarrassment when Sehwag was caught trying to slog a full toss into the River Torrens, but there was no need for sheepishness when Tendulkar and Laxman succumbed.
All four frontline bowlers had a hand in sealing the whitewash, and extending India's overseas losing streak to eight. As the Australians celebrated, the Indians filed glumly from the field. Dravid, one of four top-six batsmen who averaged less than 25, his powers diminished at the age of 39, gave a quick farewell wave to the members, remembering their appreciation of past glories. While Clarke declared Australia a team on the rise, the future for India's Test team was far less certain.
Man of the Match: P. M. Siddle. Man of the Series: M. J. Clarke.