In the end, the better team won. Australia had struggled on a sluggish Adelaide Oval surface in their last two matches, but on a Brisbane pitch with more pace and bounce they showed that they have the firepower to make the best-of-three-finals, owing to capable batsmen and very good pace bowlers. For India it was their worst batting effort of the CB Series as a troubling trend of troubles against pace was shown up.
The hallmark of the home team's 4-0 whitewash of India in the preceding Test series was the ability for members of the team to step up and lead. After two defeats, that trait was evident in the Australian batting effort and then in the field, which was of particular importance after an ordinary showing during the last two defeats. Australia had been off-colour against Sri Lanka in the last match, but came back strongly to beat India and take five points to move top of the table.
Following the exit of David Warner for a brisk 43 and Ricky Ponting's 26-ball 7, and later Matthew Wade's soft dismissal for 45, Australia could have easily slowed to crawl, but the assurance with which Michael Hussey and Peter Forrest fought back was stirring. The confidence their century partnership gave the innings allowed Daniel Christian to wallop the ball all over the Gabba, thereby lifting Australia to a match-winning total.
Australia's ability to find leaders with bat and ball scripted a comeback.
Michael Hussey's was a perfect lesson in grabbing the momentum from the opposition. He ran like a hare and rocked back to put away anything even fractionally short, and ensured the run rate did not dip. Forrest was slower - he was at one stage 27 off 52 balls - but collected boundaries in hurry before he was out for a 71-ball 52.
Irfan Pathan's double-wicket 44th over left Australia at 223 for 5, but Christian and David Hussey looted 65 runs in the next six overs. Especially outstanding was the manner in which Christian out-thought Vinay Kumar, who was hit for four consecutive boundaries in the penultimate over.
India's reply was nowhere as clinical. A tentative Gautam Gambhir nicked Brett Lee to Wade, Sachin Tendulkar made 3, Rohit Sharma played and missed before edging Lee for 0, and Virat Kohli could only manage 12. At 36 for 4, the match was effectively over. And each of these dismissals was down to a failure to play pace bowling.
They failed to negotiate the new-ball attack and no batsman, bar MS Dhoni, made a fist of the chase. India needed someone to hold the chase together from the start, but they didn’t appear to have a plan to keep wickets in hand. Several batsmen, including Tendulkar, Raina and Ravindra Jadeja, fell while attempting big hits. With the asking-rate climbing past seven midway through the chase, Raina threw his bat at an ordinary delivery from Mitchell Starc and was caught behind. Not long after, Jadeja tried to get the score going but holed out to cover point.
India were faced with the largest target of the series, and their biggest partnership during the chase was worth only 46, between Dhoni and Raina for the fifth wicket. "The breakthroughs put pressure on us. People often think about the asking rate. The two new balls make it a bit difficult so you have to respect that early on," said Dhoni after the defeat.
Unlike the Australians, India failed to pick a weak link. They failed to attack Xavier Doherty (10-0-29-0), with Dhoni showing little inclination to use his feet to the spinner. As the pressure reached intolerable levels, the batsmen succumbed to pace and Ben Hilfenhaus reaped the rewards with his maiden five-wicket haul. Brett Lee was right at the batsmen, scalping 3 for 49 in a fine effort from a 35-year-old.
A couple sloppy efforts from Zaheer Khan aside, India's ground fielding was very good - especially inside the circle - but the catching was disappointing. A couple Australian batsmen were the beneficiaries of lives from Sharma, which in the end result made a huge difference. Rohit spilled a chance at second slip off the second ball of the match when Wade had yet to open his account, and then let Michael Hussey off on 13 at short midwicket. Wade scored 45 and Micheal Hussey 52 off 59 balls, which included a second chance gone down when Umesh Yadav spilled one on the boundary. With Sri Lanka gaining momentum, these are chances India cannot afford to give in the remainder of the series.