Australia 463 (A Symonds 162, B Hogg 79, Anil Kumble 4 for 106, R.P.Singh 4 for 124) & 401 for 7 dec (M Hussey 145*, M Hayden 123, A Kumble 4 for 148) beat India 532 (S Tendulkar 154*, VVS Laxman 109, Saurav Ganguly 67, B Lee 5 for 119) and 210 (Saurav Ganguly 51, A Kumble 45*, M Clarke 3 for 5) by 122 runs
There might be attempts made to try and look at the second test of this edition of the Border-Gavaskar series for purely its cricket, disassociating all the umpiring muddles and goof ups. But that is quite impossible, and unjust. For there are just way too many if's and but's.
There is little to choose between the two sides. Australia had a bad first innings, but were rescued by Symonds, with bad decisions standing to make a huge difference. India had a better time with their first innings, going on to take a deserved lead.
Australia had a much better second innings, nearly as good as India's first, in terms of impact if not in terms of runs, but had a little black mark with a dodgy decision involving Hussey when he was on 47, who went on to score a fine century. The Indian second innings was nearly as bad as the Australian first innings in terms of standard of play though not in terms of runs, but was again sullied by two horrendous decisions.
Two simple questions are enough to reveal, for all the fantastic cricket and drama, how farcical a Test this eventually turned out to be. Can we say with confidence and beyond reasonable doubt that Australia, who eventually won the Test, outplayed India and deserved to win? Have to say no. Can we say with confidence and beyond reasonable doubt that the six (at last count) wrong decisions that went against the Indians could have altered the result? Almost certainly, yes.
You can see Ganguly, Dravid, Harbhajan- perhaps the most luckless of them all and Kumble look around and wonder what did they do wrong to end up with the egg on their face. You can see Yuvraj and Jaffar slinking away in the background after four back-to-back innings of no contribution at all. And you can see Michael Clarke, with 1 run in two innings, with an inexplicable few seconds of waiting around after being clearly caught in the slips, with a catch he had clearly grassed on rolling over when still not in full control of himself, as the Law requires you to be to have completed a catch, grinning and celebrating a back-door win.
It is now going to be extremely difficult for the Indians to pick themselves up and salvage something out of this series. But it is very important that they do so, if they are to maintain the weight that the umpiring errors will carry for this defeat. The difficult way to do this is to try and put the bad decisions behind, and start from scratch. The less difficult way would be to keep them in mind, draw the fury and frustration from them and channel them into the cricket and come out with a powerful performance, as Kumble seemed to be doing during his dogged resistance.
Yuvraj was the sole pillar under which the adjusted, compromised, make-shift batting order rested. Now that that has come crashing down, the batting order will finally look to being back in order, with Sehwag almost certain to open, and Kartik or Pathan getting a look in with Jaffar also likely to be asked to do his share of benchwarming.
There was some good cricket involved. Tendulkar and Laxman with tons in the first innings, Ganguly with two fifties in the match and Dravid with tremendous guts and gumption played some of the most exquisite, gorgeous cricket you can ever come across. Symonds, bad decision and all, still had a fighting 160+ score to his name, and Hussey showed that he isn't going to relinquish his spiraling average in a hurry. Lee and Harbhajan bowled their hearts out, but it is a pity that at the end of it all, it will be impossible to view each of these fine cricketing moments without the horrendous shadow of inept umpiring and a stinging lack of sportsmanship hanging over them. .
There is talk of how things even out in cricket, and how if things are going horribly for you now you will get a few lucky decisions in your favour later on. Try telling Kumble and Ganguly that without getting a cold glare in return. The point is that there is little point in things evening out several years and so down the line, especially when the impact of the ill luck transcends magnitudes as it has done now.
Besides, why depend on luck, fate and other such, umm, natural forces without attempting to use all the technology at your disposal and doing your best now to get a fair result?
Pardon the cliché, but cricket really is the loser. It is a rare event when the Australians are challenged, especially at home. It is a rare moment, to be savored, when a series actually looks to be living up to its billing, and when someone is making a serious contest out of a battle with the World Champions. It is a pity now that for reasons not connected to cricketing skill and performance, this series is now running the risk of being reduced to a no-contest.