At stumps India were 6 for 166, having been set a target of 500. To put that in perspective, the highest successful chase in all of Test history was 418 by West Indies in Antigua nine years ago. The best in Adelaide was the 315 that Joe Darling’s Australia chased down against England 110 years ago. In the past century, the highest Test chase in Adelaide was less than half of what India required in this innings.
Ishant Sharma was at the crease on 2 and Wriddhiman Saha was yet to score when India walked off, any minuscule hope they had having disappeared along with VVS Laxman and Virat Kohli in the dying stages. Laxman and Kohli had steadied, relatively speaking, with a 52-run partnership when Laxman fell victim to his own wristy tendencies.
Clarke set a leg slip, a short leg and a short catching midwicket for Laxman facing the offspin of Nathan Lyon, and on 35 the batsman complied with a flick straight into the hands of Shaun Marsh at short midwicket. The ball had rocketed off the bat but Marsh’s reflexes were good enough, and Laxman was left to wonder if it would be his final act in Test cricket.
But even more remarkable was Kohli’s departure. India had sent in Ishant as a nightwatchman, traditionally a position that requires a lower-order batsman to maintain the strike and protect the specialist. Instead, Kohli wanted so desperately to face the last over of the day that he pushed the final ball of the penultimate over wide of mid-on and raced off for a risky single.
The ball was collected by Ben Hilfenhaus, whose momentum was carrying him away from the stumps, but his fast throw hit the stumps and Kohli was run-out for 22. It was a wonderful piece of work from Hilfenhaus, hardly the nimblest of Australia’s fielders, and as Kohli walked off he thumped his fist on his own helmet in frustration at his ill-judged run.
Already Australia had seen the backs of Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. It was the wicket of Tendulkar that really got the hosts going, as it left India at 4 for 110 and ensured that despite Tendulkar’s greatness, he had had no serious impact on the series, finishing with 287 runs at an average of 35.87.
Tendulkar was caught for 13 at short leg when he inside edged onto his leg off Lyon and the ball bobbed up to Ed Cowan. Tendulkar walked off to a standing ovation, but at least Australian fans will see him bat again, during the one-day series. Another all-time great, Dravid, almost certainly walked off an Australian ground for the last time a short while earlier.
On 25, Dravid’s thick edge off the bowling of Ryan Harris was snapped up by Michael Hussey at gully. Australia were making good progress after Sehwag gave Indian fans a brief glimmer of hope with a brisk half-century. He was so aggressive to anything wide of off stump that 54 of his 62 runs came through the off side, including all 12 of his boundaries, as he gave little regard to the risk of being caught.
Eventually his downfall came when he miscued an attempted slog off a Nathan Lyon full toss and was caught at cover. Already India had lost Gambhir, who will finish the series with a disappointing average of 22.83 after he pushed at a Harris delivery and was caught behind for 3.
India had come to the crease after Clarke allowed his own batsmen to play for three overs after lunch in order to set the target of 500, before he declared with Australia on 5 for 167. Ricky Ponting finished unbeaten on 60 and Brad Haddin was on 11.
As Homer Simpson once pointed out after observing that it was time to play the waiting game, “the waiting game sucks. Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos!” Such was the case in the first session as Australia accumulated more and more runs without any sense of urgency, despite already having ample to defend, with both teams waiting patiently for Clarke’s declaration.
Australia added 104 in the first session for the loss of two wickets. Clarke had just started to lift his tempo against the spin of R Ashwin when he feathered a catch behind for 37 off Umesh Yadav, and Hussey was adjudged lbw to Ishant Sharma for 15.
As the innings moved on, India’s batsmen could see that some runs remained in the pitch but the surface was only going to become more difficult, perhaps another reason why Clarke delayed his declaration. Whatever the case, India knew they would have to completely rewrite history in order to escape with a victory.
By stumps, any slim hopes they had were gone.