The fractured relationship between the Australian and Indian cricket teams reached a new low here yesterday in Sydney after Australia staged an amazing comeback to win the second Test by 122 runs.
The part-time spinner Michael Clarke captured three wickets in the penultimate over to deny India a draw and ensure Australia retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and equalled their own world record of 16 successive victories. But their incredible victory was overshadowed by a bitter outburst from the Indians, who accused the Australians of unsportsmanlike behaviour and called on the International Cricket Council (ICC) to sack the two umpires that handled the match.
"Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game," the Indian captain Anil Kumble said, borrowing a similar line to Bill Woodfull's immortal comment during the 1932-33 Bodyline series. "You try and take it sportingly but it hurts a lot when you lose like this. It's for everyone to see what has happened."
The Indian captain was particularly unhappy with Clarke when the batsman waited for the umpire to raise his finger even though he clearly edged a Kumble ball to Rahul Dravid in the slips in Australia's second innings.
"When you nick it, yes you stand there for the umpire to give a decision. But when you nick it to first slip and you wait... I guess that says it all," Kumble added. "We had decided we would be honest. We like to play hard on the field and we expect that from Australia as well."
His Australian counterpart Ricky Ponting disagreed, saying, "[There is] absolutely no doubt about this match being played in the right spirit."
The Indian team manager, Chetan Chauhan, said the tourists were so upset at the performances of the two on-field umpires, West Indian Steve Bucknor and England's Mark Benson, that they planned to lodge an official protest at their handling of the match.
"I have been informed by the BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India] that they are lodging a strong protest with the ICC, so that some of the incompetent umpires do not umpire in the rest of the series," Chauhan said.
The tourists had been faced with the daunting challenge of batting through 72 overs to salvage a draw on a turning Sydney Cricket Ground pitch to keep the series alive but came up agonisingly short. They made no attempt at chasing down the 333 they had been set to win but held out realistic hopes of hanging on for a draw when they started the second last over with three wickets in hand.
But Clarke, who had managed just one run with the bat in the match, manufactured an astonishing over to seal Australia's win by dismissing Harbhajan Singh, RP Singh and Irfan Pathan in five balls.
Ponting said Australia's win was among the best he had ever been involved in during his long career.
"My overall emotion and feeling at the end of the game was as good a feeling as I've ever had on a cricket field," he said."To win a test like that, coming down to the last eight or 10 minutes on the fifth day is very special."
Australia were not even entertaining thoughts of winning when they trailed by 69 runs on the first innings but gave themselves a chance of victory when they piled on the runs in the second dig. Mike Hussey made an unbeaten 145 and man of the match Symonds (61), allowing Ponting to declare before lunch on the last day and give his bowlers just over two sessions to manufacture a result.
India's hopes of saving the match suffered an early setback when they lost out-of-form opener Wasim Jaffer, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman but Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly consolidated the innings.
Dravid was the victim of another umpiring blunder after tea but the tourists looked to have done enough when Ponting tossed the ball to Clarke in desperation and the match took one last twist.
"The last 30 or 40 minutes of the day's play was about gambling, about rolling the dice," Ponting said.
After the game, Harbhajan Singh was banned for three Tests for racially abusing Symonds, a charge the off-spinner denied.
The victims: Australia's consecutive Test wins record
26.12.05, Melbourne: 184 runs v South Africa. 2.1.06, Sydney: 8 wickets v South Africa. 16.3.06, Cape Town: 7 wickets v South Africa. 24.3.06, Durban: 112 runs v South Africa. 31.3.06, Johannesburg: 2 wickets v South Africa. 9.4.06, Fatullah: 3 wickets v Bangladesh. 16.4.06, Chittagong: inns & 80 runs v Bangladesh. 23.11.06, Brisbane: 277 runs v England. 1.12.06, Adelaide: 6 wickets v England. 14.1206, Perth: 206 runs v England. 26.12.06, Melbourne: inns & 99 runs v England. 2.1.07, Sydney: 10 wickets v England. 8.11.07, Brisbane: inns & 40 runs v Sri Lanka. 16.11.07, Hobart: 96 runs v Sri Lanka. 26.12.07, Melbourne: 337 runs v India. 2.1.08, Sydney: 122 runs v India.Reuse content