The WACA is known for its demolition jobs, and Australia reserved its most efficient wrecking ball for India on Friday, the first day of the third Test.
The bowlers did it not with pace and bounce, but the menace these assets radiate and, more visibly, swing. Then came the hammering, from David Warner's muscular bat, a smash-mouth 104 (batting), not without subtlety, but with unnervingly obvious intent. By stumps, India, 0-2 down and chasing the series, was left bloodied, broken, its innings of 161 looking even feebler than it was, in comparison to Australia's 149 for no loss.
When Michael Clarke won the toss, he'd have hoped for his four-man pace attack to bowl India out for fewer than 200. With a strong easterly gusting across the ground, he would have known there was every chance of the ball swinging. He might have been wary of a backlash from India's batting, but he'd have been aware of their fraught mental state.
But even this all-knowing entity, who could so easily divine the workings of Clarke's mind, will have struggled to intuit the clinical precision of Australia's bowling effort.
Ben Hilfenhaus, who finished with figures of four for 43, began with the best ball of the day. An unusually circumspect Virender Sehwag had no chance against an out-swinger, among the best of its kind to be brought to life: delivered from a low arm, it curved from the line of leg-stump, committing Sehwag to play, continued its direction off the pitch to take the edge to second slip; the length was perfect, for it dropped on a spot most testing.
Rahul Dravid's feet weren't clicking into place with the assurance they do when he's feeling good about himself, and he left in rather curious fashion. He was bowled for the fourth time in five innings — a half-volley into the blind-spot, reflected onto the stumps by the pads. The wicket fell on the hour mark, and two more were to go before lunch.
Sachin Tendulkar played three sumptuous drives. In between, his preternatural ease against the bouncing ball brought to mind his century here as an 18-year-old. But Ryan Harris got an in-ducker to persuade the great man to play squarer on the on-side than he otherwise might to that length. Tendulkar missed hitting the ball; he was trapped ‘lbw'.
Gautam Gambhir battled for his 31. He hasn't fully rediscovered himself, but he's made progress in his last two knocks, the second innings at Sydney and this one here. Although he played and missed on occasion, his technique was largely compact till his dismissal.
Hilfenhaus had Gambhir caught behind, cutting his fingers down the outside of the ball to make it leave the left-hander with the angle, not swing into his pads with the breeze.
At 63 for four, India was sliding towards embarrassment. Virat Kohli (44) and V.V.S. Laxman (31) arrested it with a partnership of 68. Kohli was particularly impressive. Although Clarke tempted him to play across the line by blocking the straight areas with a mid-on and a short mid-on, Kohli made a conscious effort to hit straight.
An off-driven four was his only attacking stroke of control in his first three boundaries, an edge to third-man and a top-edged pull the others, but Kohli settled thereafter, playing some beautifully balanced flicks off his legs. He relieved the pressure Laxman might have felt in taking 50 deliveries to get to 10.
Laxman got himself going with a couple of attractive pulled fours, but just as it seemed the partnership would kick on, Peter Siddle struck twice to worsen India's misery.
Kohli, who constantly fought his tendency to push his hands at the ball, succumbed to it. He sliced a taut outswinger to point before Laxman edged to first slip a delivery that appeared to do little by way of movement; its direction did, however, unbalance Laxman, who would have left it in an ideal world.
Without R. Ashwin, the lower-order offered all the resistance of a wet noodle, six wickets tumbling for a mere 30 runs.
Warner looked in ominous mood. At first, his touch didn't match his ambition. But with India's four-man seam attack labouring to find their bearings, the powerfully built left-hander soon began scattering the sea gulls.
It was a miracle no bird was killed, for Warner struck a clean, vehement ball. He also ran well between the wickets with Ed Cowan, the Australian openers toying with India's fielders.
Warner was especially severe on debutant R. Vinay Kumar. He smashed the medium-pacer for two sixes, including the one that brought him his century in 69 balls, the quickest by an opener and the fourth fastest of all time.
He was hit on his helmetted head by a bouncer from Umesh Yadav when he was on 80. But once he regained his feet, he took no more than eight balls to get to triple-figures.
Keywords: India's tour of Australia