It lasted three hours on Sunday — two hours and 20 minutes if you subtract the time for luncheon — India's attempt at extending the third Test, at salvaging dignity.
That this was merely the third day said everything about the nature of the contest here at the WACA; that the defeat — when it came, by an innings and 37 runs — was the seventh successive loss overseas showed how far the erstwhile No. 1 team has fallen.
The Border-Gavaskar Trophy will now be transported to the Jolimont offices of Cricket Australia. Since its unveiling in 1996, it has spent more time in India than in Australia. But most of the duels fought over the trophy have been close-run things — not since 1999-2000 has India been at the receiving end of such a beat-down from its rival.
India began Sunday on 88 for four, the hopes of a miracle keeping its world from collapsing. For a little more than an hour, Virat Kohli (75) and Rahul Dravid (47) did what this Indian batting line-up has struggled to do abroad over the last year. They built their partnership, each ball considered on its merit, each run stolen when not taken by right; but the feeling, that it was too good to last lingered, like cheap aftershave.
Kohli was particularly impressive. He had shown in his brief stints in Sydney, the talent for picking length and accelerating his hands through the ball. Questions remained, however. Was his defensive technique tight enough? Could he discipline himself into leaving deliveries? Could he moderate his overeager bottom hand, which tended to get him out of shape, for he went at the ball instead of meeting it within his body-range?
The young man answered those questions on Sunday. He will be asked these questions, again and again and again by capable bowling attacks, and if he responds as calmly and as skilfully as he did at the WACA, where the ball swung, bounced, and deviated, both off the surface and off the widening cracks, he'll have a Test career.
Kohli's ambition is plain enough; what he showed, on all three days of this Test, was that he can organise his game in response to conditions he is not accustomed to — this, after being found deficient earlier in the series. It's a special ability. Add to the mix, his ticker and a growing self-belief, and you have one of India's two ‘positives' from the Test; the bowling, especially Umesh Yadav's revival, the other.
Till he was bowled for the fifth time in the series — sixth if you consider the Peter Siddle no-ball in Melbourne — Dravid exhibited why he has been such a prolific run-maker. He wasn't in full control of his batsmanship, but the 39-year-old found a way to bat time.
The first stage of Dravid's trigger movement, the back-and-across shift of the back-foot, has appeared to change marginally this series: it hasn't quite moved to middle and leg, as it often does when he's batting well, but has either stayed at leg or crept minimally. On occasion, it has also retracted, slightly outside the line of leg-stump. This has meant he has covered less area with his front foot; his right eye hasn't aligned with off-stump.
Hence the sight of Dravid leaving deliveries, stumps exposed; also the uncertainty of what to play, and — more significantly — the opening of a chasm between bat and front foot, for he has had to compensate with his arms to reach the ball. Ryan Harris exploited this with a fast in-swinger, but before it, Dravid gutsed it out, like he so often has.
Dravid said he had watched videos of his batting from England, and hadn't found anything radically different; but the trigger movement was more consistent then. (There were occasions then when the back foot didn't move as much, just as there were occasions here when it did, but, overall, this has troubled him in Australia).
Once Dravid went, the slide was rapid. Australia's bowlers got reward for the persistence and quality of their efforts. M.S. Dhoni again disappointed, pressured into feeling for a ball outside off-stump — he has said he can't change his technique, that it's more a case of trying to avoid such deliveries, but as long as he continues to push his hands at the ball, feet following the stroke, he'll struggle when there's bounce and movement.
The tail had no chance. Ben Hilfenhaus, whose wicket-luck has complemented his bowling, again changed his length to the lower-order batsmen, giving them nasty lifters. He took three in five balls, but the connoisseur felt for Harris, who bowled magnificently without the rich returns that he deserved. Of all Australia's bowlers, it was Harris that tested and bested Kohli, only for fortune to intervene on the batsman's behalf.
Siddle eventually took Kohli's wicket to honour the bowlers' pact with their captain: to not force the pampered Australian batsmen to bat again. India must start making and keeping pacts of their own: the batsmen must provide their bowlers greater support.
Keywords: India's tour of Australia