India, March 25 -- In extracting payback for the series whitewash in Australia, India created a record by winning all four Tests and in each case doing it in convincing fashion. Well, the final victory looked like being convincing until some of the top-order batsmen started applying the finishing touches with the deftness of a man with a maimed hand. However, nothing fazed the ever-reliable Cheteshwar Pujara and he even timed his finish to perfection, leaving the winning runs to be hit by his skipper.
Pujara was just one of the reasons why India were far superior but he headed a batting line-up that took advantage of their starts with a lot more surety and skill than their opposite numbers. In part, this could be put down to having to face a less skilful bunch of spinners but the India top order was far better technically and mentally.
With one last chance to grab some glory for Australia in the fourth innings, the two off-spinners operated on the wrong line when bowling round the wicket. Too often, Nathan Lyon and Glenn Maxwell pitched the ball around middle and leg, which allowed the India batsmen to work or stroke the ball into the on-side.
Too late, Lyon rectified his mistake and was rewarded with the wickets of Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar, both trapped lbw with balls pitching around off stump.
Tendulkar again showed his vulnerability when he plays tentatively and with young batsmen dominating the series for India the selectors no longer need to justify his existence on experience alone.
This selection panel has shown themselves to be much more daring than their predecessors and Tendulkar will be testing their patience if he continues to struggle for worthwhile scores.
While the off-spinners were too magnanimous to start with, the India openers must've been delighted to be confronted by spin at each end with the new ball.
This was a perfect opportunity to give Peter Siddle the new ball, as he was coming off the high of being the first Australia No 9 to ever score a half-century in each innings of a Test. He's also the most accurate and demanding of the tourists' fast bowlers and showed in this Test he's also a smart lower-order batsman, adaptable and fleet-footed and courageous in a tense situation.
Sometimes, there's merit in going with the hot hand in cricket and Siddle would've been energised for a thrust at the Indians while the game was still open.
It's hard to be critical of Shane Watson's captaincy because he did a creditable job in the first innings. That's the cruel part of captaincy when defending a moderate total; if you get it wrong at the start of the innings the game is usually irretrievable.
Purely in numbers, the two teams are now even after their last two meetings but the India batting is once again on the rise while Australia's is struggling for traction.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.