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banner Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 15:16 GMT
India show the way
Harbhajan Singh celebrates another wicket while Steve Waugh looks on
Steve Waugh's side were undone by Harbhajan Singh
by BBC Sport Online's Robin Scott-Elliot

India's achievement in ending Australia's record breaking run and inflicting their first series defeat since 1999 cannot be understated.

To recover from a hammering in the opening game to win back-to-back Tests against the best side in the world, all without your two leading bowlers is, quite simply, awesome.

Even though they did enjoy the considerable advantage of playing at home, it is a victory that arguably outweighs England's considerable achievements in Sri Lanka.

At the start of the series India were not regarded as a good side even by their own media and supporters. A ten wicket drubbing in Mumbai unleashed a barrage of criticism and when the home side followed-on in the second Test that seemed set only to intensify.

Harbhajan Singh
Man of the series: Harbhajan Singh

But then came Vangipurappu Laxman and Harbhajan Singh, both previously unheralded performers who were far from sure things for selection, and the turnaround began.

It culminated in India, and Laxman and Singh in particular, keeping their nerve on a sweltering evening in Chennai to continue Australia's 31 years of hurt in the country.

Teams do not win three match series when they lose the first game. Or rather they never used to.

England did it in Sri Lanka - the first time they had staged such a recovery for 113 years - now India have done it.

India possess a formidable looking batting line up now that Laxman has established himself. In Harbhajan they have unearthed a spinner of Test class.

When Anil Kumble's potent leg spin and Javagal Srinath's seam are restored it gives them a strong-looking side.

Australia in Chennai
Australia: First series defeat since 1999

Their task now must be to build on the home success for their record on tour is poor. That is the doubt that remains over this side - they can beat anyone at home but seemingly no-one away.

Australia can beat anyone anywhere, except India in India it seems. They have not won a series there since Bill Lawry's team triumphed in 1969/70

A year ago they brushed aside India by huge margins in each of the three Tests, as they did in Mumbai.

Steve Waugh settled on a three seamer policy ahead of the series and after it worked in the first Test he appeared understandably loath to alter it.

In hindsight it was a mistake. On a flat surface in Calcutta the lack of a second spinner cost Australia as India staged their amazing comeback.

In Calcutta and Chennai their batting was uncharacteristicly brittle as they struggled to combat Harbhajan.

Laxman collects another boundary on the final day in Chennai
Laxman scored crucial runs

Their approach was in contrast to the manner in which England dealt with Saqlain Mushtaq and Muttiah Muralitharan.

Instead of negating the opposition's main threat with a bloody-minded determination not to get out as England did, Australia, as is their wont, attempted to bully the young off spinner out of the attack.

A feature of Steve Waugh's side is their positiveness but for once a more cautious approach may have served them better.

Their defeat is encouraging for the rest of the world - they are not, after all, invincible.

Nevertheless they will remain strong favourites for the Ashes.

England are hugely improved, but Australia will much prefer the conditions that await in England than those they have experienced in India.

Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Michael Slater will relish confronting seam based attacks again.

Dinghe celebrates with Harbhajan in Chennai
The winning moment

Matthew Hayden was the biggest plus from the India tour and he is also more at home against pace, while the Waugh brothers continue to make runs whereever they go.

Shane Warne appears on the wane but Australia's spin still looks stronger and anyhow it is seam that is likely to settle the outcome.

It is there that England come closest to matching Australia. Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick against Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie will be an intriguing contest.

England will have to perform as well as they did in Pakistan and Sri Lanka if they are to match India's accomplishments.

But at least India have shown it can be done.

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