The first hour had been seen off,the 50-over mark crossed,the deficit whittled down to 73. The sort of deficit that gives a side a little bit of hope when they have six wickets in hand and two set batsmen at the crease,especially when one of them is Rahul Dravid.
Dravid has seen India through such situations before,turned them on their head a couple of times. But that Dravid was a more secure Dravid,a tightly mortared wall,if you will.
Now,39 years and four days old,Dravid looked back and saw an unruly mess of stumps and bails behind him. This was the sixth time the sight had greeted him during the series,including the no-ball dismissal at Melbourne. Of his last ten legal dismissals,stretching back to the Delhi Test against the West Indies last November,eight have been bowled.
Amidst this glut of disordered stumps,Dravid has gone 29 innings without being LBW. The last time someone trapped him in front Morne Morkel at Centurion in December 2010 he had been bowled 44 times. Since then,hes gone past John Reid,Jacques Kallis,Sachin Tendulkar and Allan Border to sit on top of the list of batsmen who have been bowled most in Test matches.
Has there been some sort of technical change in that period? Would the Dravid of old have gotten his pads in the way of some of the deliveries that bowled him? More pertinently,might that movement of his pads across the crease have gotten him closer to the ball and prevented that gap from forming in the first place?
Its noticeable that Dravids cover drive has changed. In recent times,to full and wide deliveries,he has tended to push forward but not completely across,open his face slightly and drive to the left of cover rather than to his right. On the backfoot,he has tended to meet the ball by his side rather than in front of him,and hit it with a slicing motion rather than punching with a vertical bat.
In his second-innings 47,he played this latter stroke a couple of times late on Day Two,once off Ben Hilfenhaus and once off Mitchell Starc,and timed both beautifully. An earlier Dravid might have hit them slightly straighter.
The old Dravid had a small but perceptive trigger movement back and across,no further than middle stump mostly. From there,he would go forward or back as the delivery dictated. Now,his trigger movement takes him back but not as far across. In both innings at Perth,his back foot was stuck on leg stump when the ball beat his inside edge. In the first innings,in fact,his back foot had moved towards square leg,causing him to aim a straight drive at a ball he would normally have flicked towards mid-wicket.
With this change in his initial movement,Dravid has been forced to take a bigger stride across to full deliveries outside off stump. He hasnt always managed this. More often than before,the outswingers have beaten him or forced him to edge. Thanks to his soft hands,the edges have tended to drop short of the slips. But the inswingers,spotting that little gate,have bowled him.
Following the latest instance of that,the five remaining Indian wickets lasted just 12 and a half overs. MS Dhoni was out in predictable manner,pushing way out in front of him and edging Siddle to second slip. Ben Hilfenhaus sent back Vinay Kumar,Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma in the third over after lunch,with three mercilessly well-directed throat balls.
Last man to go was Virat Kohli,for a defiant 75,caught behind off Siddle.
Amidst the gloom of Perth,there was a real sense of positivity about Kohlis batting,exemplified by the certainty of his leaves outside off stump. One instance,when he was on 52,summed this up. He had just aimed a cover drive to a full and wide delivery from Harris,only to see the ball swing in and miss his off stump by inches. The next ball was on the same line,slightly shorter. This was the classic follow-up outswinger. Other batsmen may have had a little nibble; Kohli ignored it,trusting the length,trusting the bounce of the WACA wicket.
This sense of sureness he exuded caused the Australians to bowl much straighter to him than the other batsmen. Whenever this happened,he capitalised,with three boundaries from flicks and glances in each innings.
Even more impressive was his awareness of scoring opportunities,in a match where most of his teammates were merely looking to survive. Letting the ball come to him,he didnt merely defend,but pushed and worked the ball adroitly into gaps either side of the wicket for ten doubles and two triples.
Before this Test began,many had expected Kohli to make way for Rohit Sharma. After top-scoring in both innings,he now looks like a rare bright spot to emerge from a wretched tour.