|Ponting signals the end for Gautam Gambhir as Australia establish a series lead ahead of the second Test in Sydney which starts on January 2 [GALLO/GETTY]|
Australia’s makeshift pace attack performed above and beyond expectations on Thursday, tearing through India’s formidable batting unit to propel the hosts to an emphatic 122-run victory in the first Test.
With front-line bowlers Ryan Harris and Shane Watson sidelined, the unlikely trio of Peter Siddle, 21-year-old James Pattinson and discard Ben Hilfenhaus combined brilliantly to dismiss India for 169 on the fourth day in Melbourne.
The win gave Michael Clarke’s rebuilding team a 1-0 lead in the four-Test series and a shot of confidence before the second match in Sydney next week after being under fire for recent demoralising losses to New Zealand and South Africa.
“We’ll take some confidence out of this Test match, no doubt,” Clarke told reporters.
“We deserve this win because of the amount of effort and time we’ve put into our preparation, but it means nothing come Sydney.”
Pattinson, who made his Test debut two matches prior with a five wicket haul against New Zealand, struck an unbeaten 37 in the morning to set India a 292-run chase and set about ensuring the tourists would get nowhere near it in the afternoon.
The ultra-confident right-armer took four wickets in the second innings and finished with seven in a man-of-the-match performance showcased in front of nearly 190,000 home fans over the four days of play.
“Obviously, for me it’s a dream come true to play cricket for Australia and to be out there on Boxing Day and against India with the batting line-up,” Pattinson said after adding the scalps of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman to his already impressive resume.
“I know with Sachin (Tendulkar)… I wasn’t even born when he started playing cricket, so to go out there and bowl against him and have some success against their batsmen is just unbelievable and to get a win is even better.”
While Pattinson took the award, both his partners made legitimate claims. Siddle, a fiery redhead from rural Victoria, slammed the final nail in India’s coffin when he dismissed the talismanic Tendulkar for 32 after lunch.
He also cut short the 38-year-old’s bid for his 100th international century in the first innings, bowling him on 73 to stall India’s charge before going on to finish with six wickets.
|Fourth day scorecard|
Australia first innings 333
D Warner b Yadav 5
India second innings
G Gambhir c Ponting b Siddle 13
Hilfenhaus, written off as a predictable workhorse after his poor Ashes series, raised eyebrows with his selection but marched out to notch seven wickets with the swinging ball, including a Test-best five-wicket haul in the first innings.
Combined, the trio conquered a batting line-up boasting two of the format’s highest scorers in Tendulkar and Dravid, along with seasoned champions Sehwag and Laxman.
“Experience counts, but at the same time you need to give the credit to the opposition bowlers because of the line and length they bowled,” India captain MS Dhoni told reporters.
“I think they bowled really well, they pushed the batsmen to play most of the deliveries.
“We are known to be tentative starters and I think in the next game it will be slightly better.”
India rued its failure to clean up Australia’s tail quickly, as Pattinson, dropped on 15 by paceman Zaheer Khan, propelled Australia to 240 all out after the hosts resumed on 179-8.
India’s chase began shakily with Sehwag dismissed for seven before lunch and snowballed into a full-blown collapse in the second session.
Opener Gambhir (13), Dravid (10), Laxman (1) and Kohli (0) all fell cheaply, with only Tendulkar making a defiant stand after coming out to a standing ovation, possibly for the last time in Melbourne.
However, the “Little Master” was unable to complete the rescue mission as Siddle tempted him with a fuller delivery that he drove straight to Mike Hussey in the gully.
Having slumped to 81-6, India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and Dhoni threw caution to the wind with a 36-run stand but Siddle came again to get the former to glove a simple catch to Ed Cowan behind the wicket.
Pattinson combined with Nathan Lyon to clean up the tail, with the spinner snaring the last wicket of Umesh Yadav for 21, when the paceman slogged into the deep where David Warner made a sprinting acrobatic catch near the rope.
That sparked jubilant scenes as Australia’s players charged to the middle for a group hug, whooping with joy after sewing up an impressive win with an injury-depleted side.
“It’s a great start to the series,” Clarke said at the presentation ceremony.
“India are a fantastic team and it’s great to get a win but we know they’ll come back hard at us in Sydney.”