Australia came close to conquering the final frontier in 2001, but fell short at the very end. Three years later, they were back in India, and in a series that did not live up to the hype of 2001, managed to overcome an underperforming Indian side. Australia dominated the 2004 series from the start, and the Indians somehow did not look at home in spite of being the hosts.
1st Test at Bangalore: Clarke’s sensational debut
Australia batted first in the opening Test at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, and discovered a new hero in the form of current skipper Michael Clarke. The debutant played a sensational knock, looking in no trouble at all against either the Indian spinners or seamers. His 151 came off 248 balls with 18 fours and four sixes –it comprised delicate cuts and elegant drives, something which has gone on to become Clarke’s trademark. Clarke was well supported by Adam Gilchrist, who slammed 104 off 109 balls as Australia registered 474. India managed to reply with a disappointing 246, with none of the big names reaching even 50. Glenn McGrath picked up four to destroy the Indians. Australia managed 228 in their second innings, and India faltered to 239 chasing 457.
2nd Test at Chennai: Rain dampens India’s surge
India fought back exceedingly well at Chepauk, bowling Australia for 235 in their first innings in spite of a century opening stand from Hayden and Langer. Anil Kumble was the wrecker-in-chief with seven wickets as the Aussies collapsed. India’s reply was led by Virender Sehwag, who made a majestic 155. Aided by half-centuries by Mohammad Kaif and Parthiv Patel, India managed 376. Kumble again troubled Australia in their second innings, scalping six wickets, but Damien Martyn’s sublime hundred rescued them from another collapse. Australia set India a gettable target of 229, but rain allowed only three overs in India’s chase.
3rd Test at Nagpur: Australia’s brilliance to the fore
The pitch for this Test was more Australian and less Indian. Not surprisingly, the Aussies thrived under the conditions. Batting first, they posted a competitive 398 courtesy another wonderful century from Martyn and 91 from Clarke. In reply, India were undone by Australia’s pace. Jason Gillespie grabbed a five-for and McGrath picked up three as the hosts collapsed to 185, Kaif being the only half-centurion. Australia batted brilliantly in their second innings as well, Katich making 99, Martyn 97 and Clarke 73. Set an improbable target of 543, India collapsed to 200, and handed over the series to Australia. Gillespie grabbed four wickets this time round.
4th Test at Mumbai: India have Aussies in a spin
The pitch at Wankhede Stadium was the antithesis to the one at Nagpur. It spun viciously, and the match ended in a little over two days. Batting first, India collapsed to 104 with Gillespie and Nathan Hauritz sharing seven scalps. Australia’s reply was slightly better, they made 203 courtesy Martyn’s 55. Kumble and Murali Kartik shared nine wickets. India made a painstaking 205 in their second essay thanks to fifties from Laxman and Tendulkar. Clarke ended with exceptional figures of 6 for 9. In reply, Australia were bamboozled by Harbhjan and Kartik as they collapsed to 93 chasing 107, to hand India a consolation win.
--By A Cricket Analyst