It was a match that was never out of India's control. After the tremendous work done over four days, they needed less than a session on the fifth morning to defeat Australia, sealing the Test by 320 runs, their biggest margin of victory in terms of runs ever. Zaheer Khan nipped out three wickets in the space of four deliveries when play started, and though Michael Clarke resisted with 69, it was always going to be a matter of when India would take a 1-0 series lead. In terms of runs, it was Australia's biggest defeat since their 343-run loss
to West Indies in Barbados in 1991.
India had reduced Australia to 58 for 5 yesterday, but had to wait 84 runs for their next strike, after which proceedings resembled a bowling alley as Zaheer knocked over the lower order like nine-pins. Zaheer was simply unplayable. He broke through in the first over of the day, bowling Brad Haddin for 37 with a ripper. It pitched on a length, shaped back in, and took out the middle and off stumps. In his next over, Zaheer struck with his second and third deliveries and found himself on a hat-trick. A leaden-footed Cameron White went for a drive and edged to Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Next ball, Brett Lee had no clue to one pitched fractionally shorter and had his stumps splayed. Three wickets had fallen for three runs.
With nine men around the bat, Mitchell Johnson averted the hat-trick. Zaheer had slowly built up his momentum through the fourth day and struck gold on the fifth morning. He got the ball to move slightly away from the batsmen, and was very accurate. Ishant Sharma achieved movement both ways, evident when Clarke outside-edged towards slip - the ball didn't carry - and later inside-edged towards square leg.
Perhaps significant with two Tests to play, Clarke shrugged off an indifferent tour with a fluent 69. On a pitch with good movement and against bowlers who were on song, he batted with focus and determination. He and Johnson, who played well for his 26 before popping a return catch to Amit Mishra, added 50. Clarke had been the glue that held a poor Australian innings together, but he was last out when he clipped Mishra - who finished with seven on debut - to midwicket. As the fat lady sang and Punjabi bhangra filled the Mohali air, Dhoni - India's stand-in captain who rarely made a wrong call through the Test - led the charge towards the catcher, Virender Sehwag.
Teams that have a habit of winning know how to seize the momentum and never let it go. Like Australia had done for the last decade and more, India did that very well in Mohali. They were, unquestionably, the superior side in this Test.