MELBOURNE, Dec 29: Australia thrashed India by 337 runs to win the opening Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series on the fourth day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday.

The Australians claimed their 15th consecutive Test victory and will look to equal their world record of 16 wins set by Steve Waugh’s team from October 1999 to February 2001 in next week’s second Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

India, set an historical-challenging 499 runs to win, collapsed dramatically late in the day to go down in one of their heaviest defeats.

The Indians, who battled for two sessions in fierce heat, unravelled after tea, losing five wickets for 27 with left-arm paceman Mitchell Johnson taking 3-21 off 15 overs.

After almost dismissing Australia on the opening day, India steadily declined under the relentless pressure of Ricky Ponting’s Australians to go down to huge defeat at 4:31pm (0531 GMT) on the fourth day.

Once Australia had the dismissals of key batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and V.V.S. Laxman in Saturday’s middle session, the end was inevitable.

Much depended on Tendulkar and Laxman to stick it out against relentless Australian probing, but they could not overcome the odds.

Only three teams in Test cricket history have scored 400 or more in the fourth innings for victory.

Brett Lee set up Tendulkar with a short-pitched ball and followed up with one outside off-stump which ‘The Little Master’ chased after for his favourite square drive and edged to Adam Gilchrist.

Tendulkar was generously applauded from the ground by the small crowd in his fourth and farewell Test at the MCG where he averaged 43 in his eight innings at the home of Australian cricket.

The champion batsman, who lies second (11,366) only to West Indian Brian Lara (11,953) for most Test runs, scored 15 and lasted only for 31 minutes and faced 21 balls.

Laxman battled for almost three hours and 112 balls before he fell driving Stuart Clark to Michael Clarke in the covers for 42 in the 54th over.

Yuvraj, who forced the switch of Rahul Dravid to open the innings to fit him into the Test line-up, failed for a second time, lasting just 16 minutes before he was tricked by wrist-spinner Brad Hogg’s flipper and was leg before wicket.

Wicket-keeper Mahendra Dhoni was the first to go after tea, caught by Gilchrist off Johnson for 11.

But it was skipper Anil Kumble’s dismissal for eight, also caught behind off Johnson, that triggered three wickets in four balls to hasten India’s defeat.

Harbhajan Singh was run out for a duck by Mike Hussey, Saurav Ganguly fell next ball, lbw to Brad Hogg for 40 and R.P. Singh was last man out, playing on to his stumps off Johnson for two.

Andrew Symonds grabbed Dravid’s wicket before lunch, trapping him lbw for 16 with one that kept low.

Dravid, who scored five off 66 balls in the first innings, again stonewalled the Australian bowlers facing 114 balls in 150 minutes with two boundaries.

But Symonds finally got one through his defences hitting his back pad on the low, slow drop-in MCG pitch.

Gilchrist overtook Ian Healy as the Australian wicket-keeper with the most dismissals with his catch of opener Wasim Jaffer for 15 off Brett Lee.

The regulation catch was Gilchrist’s 396th dismissal in his 93rd Test passing his predecessor Healy’s 395 from 119 Tests.

South Africa’s Mark Boucher, currently playing in the first Test against the West Indies in Port Elizabeth, holds the wicket-keeping record with 406 dismissals.

Jaffer had been caught by Gilchrist off a no-ball off the first delivery of Lee’s seventh over, but was on his way two balls later to the same mode of dismissal.

Scoreboard

AUSTRALIA (1st Innings) 343 (M.L. Hayden 124, P.A. Jaques 66; A. Kumble 5-84, Zaheer Khan 4-94).

INDIA (1st Innings) 196 (S.R. Tendulkar 62; S.R. Clark 4-28, B. Lee 4-46).

AUSTRALIA (2nd Innings) 351-7 declared (M.J. Clarke 73, P.A. Jaques 51).

INDIA (2nd Innings, overnight 6-0):

R. Dravid lbw b Symonds 16

Wasim Jaffer c Gilchrist b Lee 15

V.V.S. Laxman c Clarke b Clark 42

S.R. Tendulkar c Gilchrist b Lee 15

S.C. Ganguly lbw b Hogg 40

Yuvraj Singh lbw b Hogg 5

M.S. Dhoni c Gilchrist b Johnson 11

A. Kumble c Gilchrist b Johnson 8

Harbhajan Singh run out 0

Zaheer Khan not out 0

R.P. Singh b Johnson 2

EXTRAS (B-1, NB-6) 7

TOTAL (all out, 74 overs) 161

FALL OF WKTS: 1-26, 2-54, 3-77, 4-118, 5-125, 6-144, 7-157, 8-157, 9-157.

BOWLING: Lee 14-3-43-2 (4nb); Johnson 15-6-21-3 (2nb); Clark 15-9-20-1; Hogg 17-3-51-2; Symonds 13-5-25-1.

RESULT: Australia won by 337 runs

UMPIRES: M.R. Benson (England) and B.F. Bowden (New Zealand).

TV UMPIRE: S.J. Davis (Australia).

MATCH REFEREE: M.J. Procter (South Africa).

MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Matthew Hayden.

SECOND TEST: Sydney, Jan 2-6.

THIRD TEST: Perth, Jan 16-20.

FOURTH TEST: Adelaide, Jan 24-28.—AFP

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