By Tristan Lavalette
PERTH (Reuters) – Australia cleaned up India’s lower order with a barrage of hostile bowling before lunch on the fifth day to secure a series-levelling, confidence-boosting 146-run victory in the second test on Tuesday.
Having set India a daunting 287 runs to win on a menacing Perth Stadium pitch, Australia dismissed the tourists for 140 midway through the first session to win an engrossing, low-scoring contest.
Australia’s wickets were shared around with Man of the Match Nathan Lyon (3-39), who is fast becoming something of a national hero, and quick Mitchell Starc (3-46) the pick of the bowlers.
It was sweet revenge for Australia after a nail-biting 31-run defeat in the series-opener at Adelaide Oval and ensured captain Tim Paine his first win in five tests as skipper.
“As a group we’re relieved, it’s been hard work,” Paine told reporters.
“The first two tests in this series have been tough. It’s been a bruising test match. To get a win like that against the number one test team is going to give us a huge boost of confidence.”
India, looking for a first test series win in Australia, had pinned their faint hopes on Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant when they resumed on 112-5 but they all but evaporated when the former fell for 28 in the sixth over of the morning.
When Pant miscued a slog off Lyon to be brilliant caught by a diving Peter Handscomb at mid-wicket for 30, India simply imploded, losing their last four wickets for just three runs.
It was Australia’s first win since March 5 in Durban – before the damaging ball-tampering scandal in South Africa that rocked the nation.
Without suspended former captain and vice-captain, Steve Smith and David Warner, Australia’s shallow batting depth has been laid bare.
This, though, was a much improved effort on a troublesome drop-in wicket and the 326 the hosts made in the first innings after Paine had won the toss and decided to bat first was instrumental in the victory.
Marcus Harris, Aaron Finch and Travis Head each compiled half-centuries in the first innings and Usman Khawaja grabbed another as Australia tallied 243 in the second.
India, by contrast, looked reliant on their talismanic captain Virat Kohli, who contributed 123 of India’s 283 runs in the first innings with the only century of the match.
The tourists will regret their gamble at the selection table, playing without a specialist spinner in the absence of the injured Ravichandran Ashwin.
Speedster Umesh Yadav was preferred over spinning all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, but struggled with match figures of 2-139.
India’s lengthy tail was also exposed on the grassy wicket with the four tailenders mustering just 11 runs between them for the match.
Kohli defended the selection of Yadav, who claimed 10 wickets in his last test against the West Indies in October, even though off-spinner Lyon dominated for Australia with 8-106 through his targeting of the expansive rough patches.
“If you see the rough, it didn’t have much assistance. Just the pace on the ball that Lyon bowled with … that’s how he got the wickets,” Kohli said.
“We thought a fast bowler was going to be more productive and more helpful.”
It was a tempestuous contest at times with both skippers at the centre of the tension with several heated exchanges conjuring images of ill-feeling from previous series between the cricketing superpowers.
“Nothing compared to 2014,” said Kohli, who was part of a bitter feud with former quick Mitchell Johnson during the 2014-15 series.
“As long as there is no swearing and personal attacks then the line doesn’t get crossed. Australia played better cricket than us and deserved to win.”
The test was the first at the new 60,000-seat stadium located in Burswood after a 47-year run at the WACA but crowds were disappointing especially when fierce heat blighted the early part of the match.
The series shifts to the traditional Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground followed by the finale in Sydney.
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)