It was actually a lot closer than I thought it would be. India batted very well in the morning session, only losing Gambhir, and scoring at a frenetic rate. There always seems to be the looming spectre of a collapse about India’s batting, however, regardless of how assured any two of them may look during a partnership. Today the collapse was started in possibly the most ridiculous manner possible, when Michael Clarke brought himself onto bowl in an effort to get through the last few overs before the new ball quickly and ended up getting Sachin Tendulkar caught at slip via a dreadful drop by Haddin. It was just about as farcical as one could imagine, but it meant that a new batsman, Kohli, would come in to face the new ball. Just before Tendulkar was out the score was 271-3. Seven overs later the score was 286-7. The surprising bit for me was that India’s tail did not carry on in the same manner, to which I have become accustomed. The tail wagged quite a lot, with Ashwin scoring 62 and Zaheer Khan a rapid-fire 35. There was a point at which another sub-300 score looked quite likely, but the lower order did manage to save some face for India.
The result leaves the question of where the two sides, especially India, go from here. The series is effectively over, so India could take this opportunity to experiment with some younger batsmen. Sehwag and Laxman in particular look like they could use some time to reassess their technique, so leaving them out on one of the quicker tracks in the world, Perth, may not be a bad strategy. It is very important that they start to blood some youngsters in unfamiliar conditions. Raina in England and Kohli in Oz have been badly exposed in conditions more suited to bowlers than the ones to which they are used and they and Rohit Sharma will need to find ways to overcome that. Better for India to give them a go when there is little to lose than at the beginning of an important tour as they did in England and Australia. I don’t think it will happen, given the selectors previous tactic of burying their heads in the sand, but it would be worth a go. It could hardly be any worse, certainly.
Australia are also faced with some selection headaches. In the short term Harris is back fit and whilst he does not necessarily demand inclusion, he has been one of their best bowlers recently. Last winter Australia played an all pace attack at Perth to very good effect and I don’t think it would be a bad idea to do so again. I think Lyon is a good bowler with a lot of potential, but he hasn’t done a lot in the first two matches and the WACA will probably not suit him. In the long term they have the problem that only the old guard scored runs in this match. Warner, Cowan and Marsh all failed as they did in the second innings at the MCG. Australia cannot rely on Ponting and Hussey for very much longer, but now they are in a position where they cannot easily drop them either. If the selectors are lucky Ponting will choose the end of the Australian summer as an opportunity to retire on a high, but this does not look likely as two months ago he suggested that he might still play in the 2013 Ashes. Meanwhile Hussey seems to be making scores at the exact right time to keep his place in the side. I think that as well as Ponting and Hussey have done in this Test the selectors must still show them the door quite soon. England dropped Steve Harmison after the 2009 Ashes despite the fact that he had a good Test because Strauss and Flower recognised that he did not fit into the long term plans for the side. Australia must do the same. Fortunately for them they will at least have some time in which to consider the matter.