Australia surrendered the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to India on Monday, losing the final Test in Nagpur by 172 runs to hand the jubilant home side a 2-0 series victory.
The tourists were bowled out for 209 in only 50.2 overs, confirming the gulf that has grown between the two teams over the course of the four Tests and returning to India the trophy Australia won in the same city four years ago.
A chase of 382 to win was always going to be too much on a fifth day pitch against wily spinners Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra, and the tourists never really found their feet despite a hard-hitting 77 (93 balls) from opener Matthew Hayden.
Harbhajan (4-64) and Mishra (3-27) cleaned up after the Australians went to lunch at 3-111, precipitating a rush of wickets from the moment Mike Hussey (19) departed at 4-150.
Despite Hayden’s belligerence, the Australians were doomed from the moment captain Ricky Ponting called on part-timer Cameron White to bowl on Sunday afternoon as he sought to avoid a ban for slow over rates.
Ponting’s decision robbed courageous debutant spinner Jason Krejza (12-358 for the match) of the support he needed, and India stretched their lead from a gettable 252 at tea to the eventual and impossible 381.
The Indians celebrated a deserved series triumph that also served as a fitting send-off for retiring batsman Sourav Ganguly, who was carried from the field by his teammates.
Resuming at 0-13, the Australians showed their intent to chase by playing a shot a ball, many of them unsuccessful, and opener Simon Katich (16) was out to what can only be described as a slog at Ishant Sharma (2-31), who was again outstanding for the home side.
Ponting, under fire from all quarters for his decision making yesterday, completed an ordinary match when he was run out for eight by Mishra’s direct hit from mid off.
An unwell Michael Clarke batted with Katich as a runner but could make only 22 before he too fell to Sharma, edging a perfectly-pitched delivery that shaped away in near identical fashion to his first innings exit at the hands of the same bowler.
Hayden clumped several boundaries with typical power, but was also fortunate to survive a couple of chances from the bowling of Harbhajan.
After lunch Hussey and Hayden worked to build their stand, striking numerous telling shots against the spinners on a wearing pitch.
But they were only ever one exceptional ball away from disaster, and it was Hussey who received it.
Facing up to Mishra from around the wicket, Hussey was done by a wrong’un that straightened but also pranced off the wicket, resulting in a glove and a simple catch for Rahul Dravid at slip.
What followed was not unexpected, the tourists crushed under the weight of what was almost an impossible task.
Hayden shuffled across to a Harbhajan quicker ball and was lbw, Brad Haddin drove arrogantly to mid on, Shane Watson thin edged an attempted cut shot and Jason Krejza was comfortably stumped after charging at Mishra’s leg break.
Last man Mitchell Johnson padded up to Harbhajan to be lbw and trigger Indian exultation.