No overseas team, barring legendary Caribbean sides, had won in Perth since 1985-86, and given what transpired in Sydney a fortnight ago, India's convincing 72-run victory at the WACA will surely go down as their finest Test win. An entertaining ninth-wicket partnership between Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark gave a 16,000-strong crowd plenty of merriment, but it proved to have only nuisance value as India ended Australia's stunning 16-match streak.
Michael Clarke had been the boy on the burning deck, but with Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist back in the pavilion, the good ship was always destined for the ocean floor. And when Clarke gave Anil Kumble the charge and was beaten in the flight, it was as good as over. His 81 had spanned just 134 balls and included some majestic drives, but when he departed, he took any lingering Australian hope with him.
Johnson and Clark thought differently though. They weren't about to die wondering, and a partnership that contained more agricultural mows than a harvest season gave Kumble and the Indians more than a bit of grief. The 73-run stand at nearly a run a ball had everything - fours, huge sixes, miscued hooks falling short of fielders and even Johnson being bowled off a no-ball.
Kumble took the new ball as soon as it was due and Irfan Pathan struck with the final ball of his second over with it, inducing a big swish from Clark that flew to Dhoni behind the stumps. But there was still time for Johnson to bring up his 50 and Shaun Tait to show off his space-age pads before RP Singh sneaked one through a defensive prod to spark joyous celebrations.
A couple of contentious decisions helped them along the way. At lunch, with Australia three down, the match was still finely poised. But soon after the interval, RP jagged one back a little to strike Hussey on the knee roll. As he had with Sachin Tendulkar on the opening day, Asad Rauf chose to disregard the height and give the batsman out. Hussey had made 46, and his exit dimmed hopes of glory.
Worse was to follow for Australia. Symonds biffed Kumble for a six over long-on, but was then caught on the crease by a delivery that hurried through at 102kph. To the naked eye, it was plumb, and Billy Bowden's finger was already on the way up by the time a dismayed Symonds suggested an inside edge. Having drunk from a reservoir of luck in Sydney, Symonds found the well bone-dry across the continent in Perth.
Through it all, Clarke played with the mastery that marked his debut in Bangalore in 2004. There were a couple of beautiful straight-drives, and elegant strokes through the covers that left the fielders standing. He was just as assured clipping off the pads, and with Gilchrist showing signs of finding his feet, the 50 partnership came up in 10.4 overs.
By that stage, with Ishant Sharma not replicating his morning heroics and Pathan not quite finding his rhythm, Kumble had gambled on the offspin of Virender Sehwag. It was an inspired move. Gilchrist tried to sweep one that was too full and was bowled behind his legs, prompting frenzied celebrations from the Indians. And when Brett Lee followed in Sehwag's next over, the game was as good as up.
It had been much tighter in the morning, even though a sensational spell of seam bowling from Ishant put Ponting through the wringer for an hour before dismissing him. Both Ponting and Hussey struggled for any semblance of fluency as the Indians toiled with little reward on a slightly cooler morning.
Ishant had Ponting sparring outside off stump innumerable times, and induced more than one false shot in a spell where his rhythm was exceptional. Starting with an edge off Hussey that didn't quite carry to second slip, he tested both batsmen with lively pace and steep bounce while maintaining great seam position. His height was the most significant factor, with even length deliveries causing problems. Ponting took one on the knuckles, and was never at ease all morning.
There were two excellent appeals for leg before turned down, the second when Ponting didn't even offer a stroke, but justice was done 20 minutes before lunch when Ishant drew him into a stroke that took the edge through to Rahul Dravid at first slip. Ponting and Hussey had added 74, giving a platform for the rest to tilt at what remained an imposing windmill.
The figures may not show it, but Ishant's nine-over spell was as good as any seen from a visiting bowler in Perth over the past decade. It pushed Australia right back on to the ropes and after lunch, his bowling mates landed the knockout blows that levelled the best team in the world.