MELBOURNE, Australia, December 29- Australia crushed India by 122 runs in the opening Test on Thursday, destroying their vaunted batting lineup with aggressive pace to claim a decisive victory inside four days in Melbourne.
India, chasing a historically challenging 292 runs for victory, were never in the hunt after they crashed to 81 for six with the crucial loss of Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket late in the middle session.
The tourists, who have yet to win a series in Australia in 64 years, were routed for 169 off 47.5 overs after Australia squeezed another 61 runs from their remaining two wickets earlier in the day.
James Pattinson led the way with four for 53 while Peter Siddle claimed the prized scalp of Tendulkar for 32 to again keep the Indian star’s 100th international century on hold.
“It’s fantastic to get a win against India, who we love beating, and put the disappointment of the New Zealand loss in Hobart behind us,” said Pattinson, who won his second man-of-the-match award in his three Tests.
“We were in a bit of trouble last night but credit to Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey to get us out of trouble.
“We’ve just got this never-say-die attitude sort of feeling in the camp at the moment and it’s a great feeling.”
India were always up against it as they faced up to the highest fourth-innings run chase in almost 60 years at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
South Africa were the last team to achieve a higher fourth-innings target of 297 for four in beating Australia at the MCG in 1953.
“We should have been able to chase 300 with the kind of batting we’ve got, so another bad start to a Test series,” said captain M.S. Dhoni after India’s fifth consecutive loss in an away Test.
“I think all the bowlers did a very good job and got us back into the game, but I just think the batting needs to click a bit more.”
It was a bowlers’ Test match with no batsman scoring a century. Australian Hussey came the closest with 89 in the second innings.
Australia’s pace trio Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Siddle maintained a full line and length and never let up on the Indian batsmen.
India, 24 for one at lunch after losing Virender Sehwag for seven, unravelled in the middle session with five wickets tumbling for 93 runs.
Gautam Gambhir fell to a fired-up Siddle, edging to the safe hands of Ponting at second slip for 13.
Rahul Dravid was bowled for the second time in the match with a pearler from Pattinson that crashed into his middle-stump for 10.
V.V.S. Laxman was out cheaply again flicking Pattinson to Ed Cowan at square leg for just one after scoring two in the first innings.
Virat Kohli was out first ball, leg before wicket to Hilfenhaus with Tendulkar fast running out of batting partners.
But Tendulkar was next to go, slicing Siddle to Hussey in the gully for 32. With his departure India’s chances dipped considerably, silencing the “Swarmy Army” India supporters and prompting many to leave the ground.
Tendulkar now takes his quest for his 100th Test and one-day century to next week’s second Test in Sydney.
Ravi Ashwin went shortly after tea to a rearing Siddle delivery which he lobbed to Cowan for 30.
Zaheer Khan blasted a six off Pattinson but when he shaped to do the same on the next ball, he popped a gentle catch to Cowan close-in for 13.
Pattinson bowled Dhoni for 23 and Umesh Yadav was the last wicket to fall, caught athletically on the boundary by David Warner off spinner Nathan Lyon for 21, with Ishant Sharma six not out.
India began the day poorly when Australia added 61 runs for their last two wickets off 16.3 overs to exasperate the tourists’ bowlers.
Hussey had a charmed life before he went 11 short of a century, and Pattinson remained unbeaten on 37 not out as he put on 43 runs for the last wicket before Hilfenhaus was the last man out for 14.