First Test

Australia v India 2007-08

Greg Baum

At Melbourne, December 26, 27, 28, 29, 2007. Australia won by 337 runs. Toss: Australia.

After fighting back so impressively on the first day, when they took six wickets after tea, India effectively lost the match on the second, when they collapsed against some suffocatingly disciplined Australian bowling. In conceding a first-innings deficit of 147 on a drop-in pitch prone to occasional unevenness, India were condemned long before Ponting declared 498 ahead late on the third day. By 4.30 p.m. on the fourth, they had been bowled out for under 200 for the second time in the match.

Chetan Chauhan, the tourists' manager, described it all as "a bad dream", which owed much to his side's lack of preparedness coming into the series. A single threeday warm-up against Victoria, in which only 48 overs were bowled due to rain, provided batsmen and bowlers alike with insufficient time to acclimatise to Australian conditions.

A gripping opening day, the only one at the end of which honours were even, was watched by a Boxing Day crowd of 68,778. India did not bowl well before lunch, allowing Australia to surge to 135 before Jaques fell in the 34th over, but some topclass bowling from Kumble, who felt his 35th Test five-for was as good a performance as any in his long career, held them up. Kumble gave himself only two overs before lunch, but made the breakthrough in his second afterwards, confounding Jaques with a googly before doing the same to Hussey. That was the third wicket in six overs, as Zaheer Khan had clipped Ponting's off stump with a pearler that straightened. Hayden, though, played a typical innings, hitting powerfully in the V to score his sixth hundred in his last seven Tests at Melbourne. It was also his 19th on home soil, a record for an Australian (Don Bradman had 18, as did Ponting at the time). Hayden managed only nine fours from 183 deliveries, an illustration of how the ball did not come on to the bat on a slow surface without much bounce. Skilfully though Kumble bowled his top-spinners and wrong'uns, varying his pace, flight and angle of attack, some rash shots by the lower middle order contributed to their downfall.

India's first-innings woes owed nothing to impetuosity. Indeed, their openers tried so hard to apply themselves that Wasim Jaffer faced 27 balls for his four, and Dravid took 41 to get off the mark. The three Australian pace bowlers delivered hardly a bad ball between them, Johnson's relentless line outside off stump leaking only three runs from his first seven overs. Seeking to break the shackles, Tendulkar counter-attacked thrillingly, targeting Hogg, who was playing his first Test for more than four years: in the space of four balls Tendulkar hit four, six and four to race to 50. His dismissal when he bottom-edged a cut, the first of three wickets in 12 balls for the admirable Clark, initiated a terminal decline, during which the probing and hostile Lee became the sixth Australian to take 250 Test wickets.

Of several useful contributions in Australia's second innings, Clarke's 73 was the best, and Symonds's 44 the most punishing. Lack of swing for Zaheer and R. P. Singh dulled their threat, and Kumble was not as precise with his line as in the first innings: Australia scored throughout at an impressive four an over.

India, in contrast, crawled along at a rate of barely two on the fourth day, during which temperatures rose to 40°C. After Gilchrist caught Jaffer, his 396th Test victim to beat Ian Healy's Australian record, wickets fell regularly against tight bowling and imaginative field placings. Dravid again could not find his touch, grinding out 16 from 114 balls before Symonds beat him with a big off-break. Laxman and Ganguly offered some resistance, but no one else stayed for long as Australia recorded their ninth successive victory at the MCG, in the 100th Test match played there. The ground authority had also celebrated the 100th Test a year before, but this time disregarded the abandoned 1970-71 Ashes match.

Man of the Match: M. L. Hayden.

© John Wisden & Co.