Australia win by an innings and 37 runs

The third Test is over after seven sessions, three overs and two balls. India actually played well through most of the morning. Dravid batted with more fluency and Kohli finally looked like a proper Test player. They were helped by Australia not hitting the right lines and lengths as often as they would like. There were quite a few good balls that troubled the Indian batsmen, but most were too wide of off stump. To be fair, the way India had played previously in the series suggested that they would chase wide ones, but they didn’t today. Dravid was finally undone by a full straight one that took out leg stump though and that just about ended India’s hopes. Dhoni mad eonly two and the tailenders collapsed in a heap after lunch. Kohli at least avoided being stranded short of his hundred by being the last man out for 75. It was easily the best score by an Indian batsman in either innings and there were only two better totals at Sydney.

Despite showing some relative fight in this match, the fact is that the Indian batsmen have been abject for about six months now. Their only batsman to hit a century in England or Australia is Rahul Dravid and their top seven average under 30. In 14 innings now they have gone past 300 only once and been bowled out for under 200 five times. It simply isn’t acceptable for a Test side to bat so poorly. Laxman ought not to play another Test and if current form continues Dravid may need to be shown the door before too much longer as well. Sehwag ought never to play outside India again. Gambhir has bought himself some time, but still does not look properly convincing and Tendulkar’s form is slipping away as well. There is a strong case to be made that only Virat Kohli should still be regularly playing for India in twelve month’s time. He looked much more assured this innings and his talent has started to show, but he also has a little way to go before he is a good, consistent player. I don’t think Australia tested him with short stuff enough in this innings.

India’s bowling is better, and they came out well yesterday to dismiss Australia for a reasonable total, but they are still not good enough. They have the talent, certainly, but they do not seem to be cut out for the rigours of Test cricket. They will often bowl very well for a spell, put the opposition under a bit of pressure and then give up. It was painfully clear at Sydney when Australia went from 37-3 to 600-something, but we also saw it in the second innings at Lord’s last year and to an extent at Trent Bridge as well. Duncan Fletcher must find a way to remind them that they will have to bowl at least for the better part of a day in most Tests and they are expected to make an effort throughout that time.

Australia for their part did enough. As poor as India’s batting was, part of that was because of the skill of the Australian seam quartet. Harris proved an admirable replacement for Pattinson, which was not a surprise, but what was a bit surprising was how well Mitchell Starc did as the fourth seamer. He did all right against New Zealand, but I hadn’t bee too impressed with him. Here he was helped by the conditions, as were all the bowlers, and he looked very good. He was getting a lot of swing and for the most part pitching the ball up. The ball that got Tendulkar was an excellent one, although it was not played well. It begs the question of who will miss out in Adelaide when presumably Nathan Lyon will return.

On the flat Adelaide wicket it could actually be a batsman to miss out, since they won’t be as needed. There are certainly a few candidates; after the openers put on a combined 254 the next nine only managed 110 between them and the highest score was from a bowler, Siddle. If they do decide to drop a batsman (which is a big ‘if’) it would probably be Marsh. After a good start to his Test career he has looked out of his depth in the past two series. He is probably the front runner to miss out when Watson returns. There is still the matter of Ponting and Hussey though; as well as they did in the last Test they still will not be around forever and must still always be considered when there is talk of dropping a batsman. Were I the one to make the decision though, I would play five bowlers at Adelaide with Marsh missing out for Lyon.

That said, it almost looks like it won’t matter. India have played so poorly, and been so far gone in this series that Australia could probably field their ‘A’ side and be in with a shout. India can at least look forward to Adelaide as being the end of their torment, but if they don’t make radical changes their next series won’t be any better.

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