Melbourne: The much-fancied Indian batting was ripped apart by a rampaging Australian pace attack as the visitors were comprehensively beaten in the first Test by 122 runs to go down 1-0 on Thursday.
Chasing a competitive total of 292, the Indian batting collapsed for the second time in the Test, bundled out for a mere 169. Barring Sachin Tendulkar (32), who looked in his elements even in the second innings, none of the batsmen showed the stomach for a fight.
The Indian slide in the second innings, which started from the unwarranted slash from Virender Sehwag (7) just ten minutes before the lunch interval, finished with a heave by Umesh Yadav, who was caught brilliantly by David Warner at the long-on fence for 21. The visitors' middle order - VVS Laxman (1), Virat Kohli (0) and MS Dhoni (23) - once again failed to make any contribution.
Though the visitors would be infuriated by their batsmen's performance, they can take a lot of heart from the way their fast bowlers fared throughout the match. There were clouds over the fitness of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma before the start of the match, but while the former gave the team important breakthroughs, the latter bowled with seething pace. Yadav was the pick of the Indian pacers, troubling the opposition batsmen with his pace and swing.
Australia, who were down and out at the end of second day, showed intensity and won the little battles which proved decisive in the context of the game. Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey silenced their critics, who were gunning for their heads before the match, with useful knocks. While Ponting hit two half-centuries (62 and 60), Hussey made his second innings count with a magnificent 89. The 115-run stand shared by the two seasoned pros, when the team was tottering at 27 for 4 in the second innings, could well be the match-turning moment from an Australian point of view.
After putting some valuable contributions lower down the order, the Australian pacers didn't give the Indians an inch as they bowled with a lot of fire. While James Pattinson was adjudged Man of the Match for his match figures of 6 for 108, Ben Hilfenfaus made an impressive comeback to the side by claiming his maiden five-for in India's first innings. Peter Siddle too piled up the pressure and collected six wickets in the match.
Earlier, India, who had gone on day four thinking to take the remaining two Australian wickets, paid the price of their lack of intensity as Australia collected 74 runs for the last two wickets.
India struck with Zaheer as Hussey walked back for 89. The left-arm pacer squared him up to find the edge that was taken by Dhoni. Ishant finished the Australian innings with the wicket of Hilfenhaus, who was caught in the slips by Laxman.
India, in reply, got off to a terrible start as they lost the wicket of Sehwag, who once again fell prey to a well-set plan of enticing him outside the off stump. The dashing opener slashed a short ball, getting caught at gully by Hussey.
Having given Australia an upstart on the fourth morning of first Test, India went into lunch at 24 for 1, needing another 268 runs to win. Gautam Gambhir's poor run continued as the southpaw couldn't decide weather to leave or play a perfect outswinger from Siddle and ended up thick-edging it to Ponting in the slips. It was the start of yet another Indian collapse as Australia ran through the Indian middle order. Dravid, Laxman and Kohli departed in quick succession.
A real gem of a delivery by Pattinson, which moved in late, cannoned into the stumps of Rahul Dravid. Laxman was victim to his favourite flick, which went straight to square leg off Pattinson, while Kohli was plumb in front off the bowling of Hilfenhaus. India had gone from 39 for 2 to a disastrous 69 for 5.
India's last hope too vanished when Tendulkar couldn't resist the temptation of driving outside the off stump, caught by Hussey, his second catch in the gully region, off Siddle.
R Ashwin took his chances and got a few streaky boundaries, but he failed to keep Siddle's bouncer, aimed at his ribs, down and it lobbed up for a simple catch to the short-leg fielder Ed Cowan. After hitting a boundary and a massive six to Pattinson, Zaheer backed a little too much to a well-pitched delivery, getting a thick inside edge onto his pads to short-leg. Yadav swatted a few boundaries in the end but he was the last man to perish for India.