By Julian Linden - Reuters
SYDNEY , Jan 6: The fractured relationship between the Australian and Indian cricket teams reached a new low on Sunday after Australia staged an amazing comeback to win the second test by 122 runs.
Part-time spinner Michael Clarke captured three wickets in the penultimate over to deny India a draw and ensure Australia retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and equalled their own world record of 16 successive victories.
But their incredible victory was overshadowed by a bitter outburst from the Indians, who accused the Australians of unsportsmanlike behaviour and called on the International Cricket Council (ICC) to sack the two umpires that handled the match.
"Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game," Indian captain Kumble said, borrowing a similar line to Bill Woodfull's immortal comment during the 1932-33 Bodyline series.
The Indian team manager Chetan Chauhan said the tourists were so upset at the performances of the two on-field umpires, West Indian Steve Bucknor and England's Mark Benson, that they planned to lodge an official protest at their handling of the match.
"I have been informed by the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) that they are lodging a strong protest with the ICC, so that some of the incompetent umpires do not umpire in the rest of the series," Chauhan said.
The tourists had been faced with the daunting challenge of batting through 72 overs to salvage a draw on a turning Sydney Cricket Ground pitch to keep the series alive but came up agonisingly short.
They made no attempt at chasing down the 333 they had been set to win but held out realistic hopes of hanging on for a draw when they started the second last over with three wickets in hand.
But Clarke, who had managed just one run with the bat in the match, manufactured an astonishing over to seal Australia's win by dismissing Harbhajan Singh, RP Singh and Irfan Pathan in five balls.
Ponting, who lodged a complaint about Harbhajan during the match for allegedly racially abusing Andrew Symonds, said Australia's win was among the best he had ever been involved in during his long career.
"My overall emotion and feeling at the end of the game was as good a feeling as I've ever had on a cricket field," he said.
"To win a test like that, coming down to the last eight or 10 minutes on the fifth day is very special."
Australia were not even entertaining thoughts of winning when they trailed by 69 runs on the first innings but gave themselves a chance of victory when they piled on the runs in the second dig.
Mike Hussey made an unbeaten 145 and man of the match Symonds (61), allowing Ponting to declare before lunch on the last day and give his bowlers just over two sessions to manufacture a result.
India's hopes of saving the match suffered an early setback when they lost out-of-form opener Wasim Jaffer, Sachin Tendulkar and Vangipurappu Laxman but Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly consolidated the innings.
Dravid was the victim of another umpiring blunder after tea but the tourists still looked to have done enough to avoid defeat when Ponting tossed the ball to Clarke in desperation and the match took one last twist.
"The last 30 or 40 minutes of the day's play was about gambling, about rolling the dice," Ponting said.