Domain Tests v India
Aussies power to Perth Test victory
Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc star as Australia claims series-levelling triumph
Andrew Ramsey at the Perth Stadium
18 December 2018, 09:59 PM AEST
Throughout a year when the behaviour of Australia's men's cricket team has oscillated so starkly between naughty and nice, the most welcome early Christmas gift arrived shortly before 11.30am in Perth today when Tim Paine's team won a Test match.
While the hard-earned win was never in question once India's two remaining batting hopes had been nipped out inside the first 40 minutes today, the celebrations the 146-run win sparked have been nine months in the waiting.
It was the first win of Paine's captaincy, a position to which he was unexpectedly elevated in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal, and ended a six-match winless streak for a team that has had its methods and character closely questioned.
In a more narrow context, Australia now stands toe-to-toe with the world's top-ranked Test team heading into the final two Tests of the Domain Series at the MCG and SCG, matches that now loom as even greater drawcards on the cricket calendar than are historically so.
By contrast, India's hopes of an historic first series win on Australia's turf have copped a reality check after their batting was exposed on a fast bowlers' pitch, where Australia spinner Nathan Lyon was as tough to handle as any seamer.
India's escalating frustration became pointedly evident prior to the resumption when broadcaster Channel Seven aired footage, from the previous afternoon, of fast bowler Ishant Sharma and substitute fielder Ravindra Jadeja engaged in a heated discussion.
The exchange, captured by an isolated camera, took place while Lyon was checked out after receiving a head blow during his brief innings on Monday.
By that stage, Australia's lead was already closing in on 250 and the animosity between the pair suggested India realised the result was beyond them.
That verdict was confirmed just 20 minutes into the final day, when the tourists' final specialist batter Hanuma Vihari lost his wicket.
Vihari, who had been brought into the India XI as a spin-bowling allrounder ahead of Jadeja which might also have contributed to yesterday's spat, was undone by pace and bounce.
The very factors that had been tipped to decide this second Test before a ball had been bowled in anger.
Vihari had survived for 75 deliveries, which was more than any of his more celebrated top-six teammates had managed in India's second innings, but fell when he tried to defend a delivery from Mitchell Starc that steepled towards his rib cage.
The resulting inside edge thumped into the right-hander's thigh pad, before the ball looped towards square leg where Marcus Harris grabbed it in front of his face as he ran in excitedly – rather like a leading full-forward in the winter football code that the new stadium hosts.
With four fast bowlers then left to shepherd mercurial keeper Rishabh Pant to the 168 runs that separated India from a distant victory, Australia was then able to play a waiting game.
When Pant was on strike, the field would scatter as an open invitation for the aggressive left-hander to either take on catchers in the deep in search of boundaries, or take contentment in nudging safe singles that exposed his less qualified batting partners to the inquisition.
The war of wills proved too much for the naturally aggressive Pant who, after biding his time for half an hour, attempted to belt Lyon beyond the rope and succeeded only shovelling a catch to mid-wicket.
The chance was accepted by Peter Handscomb who once more flung himself full length, although unlike the catch that accounted for Kohli last Sunday his diving effort was clearly completed before his hands made contact with the turf.
From there, Australia's win was inevitable as India's tailenders showed understandable reluctance to pit their limited skills against a rampant Australia pace attack on a spiteful pitch.
Umesh Yadav bunted back a return catch having worn a couple of painful blows to the body, Ishant swung as hard at Pat Cummins as he might have considered aiming at Jadeja, and the game ended when Jasprit Bumrah skied a speculative swish.
The Australia players then gathered near the bowlers' end stumps where Cummins had waited beneath the final catch, from where they eyed a 1-1 series scoreline and the best of feelings heading into Christmas.
Australia XI: Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Tim Paine (c), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
India XI: KL Rahul, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav.
Domain Test Series v India
Dec 6-10: India won by 31 runs
Dec 14-18: Australia win by 146 runs
Dec 26-30: Third Test, MCG
Jan 3-7: Fourth Test, SCG
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c, wk), Josh Hazlewood (vc), Mitch Marsh (vc), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Chris Tremain
India squad: Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (wk), Parthiv Patel (wk), Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar