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Australia wallop India

Faisal Shariff | November 01, 2003 18:40 IST
Last Updated: November 01, 2003 22:33 IST

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Two left-armers got it right for Australia as they bundled out India for 209 runs under lights in the fourth match of the tri-series at the Wankhede stadium on Saturday.

Left-arm fast bowler Nathan Bracken and left-arm spinner Michael Clarke took four wickets apiece, after Damien Martyn hit a century, to lead Australia to a 77-run victory.

Tendulkar and Dravid apart, none of the Indian batsmen seemed to have the stomach for a fight as Australia also pocketed the bonus point by dismissing India under 228 runs.

Australia innings

Australia, spurred by a diligent century from Damien Martyn and an early blast from Adam Gilchrist, set India an intimidating target of 287,

Memories of the 2003 World Cup final gushed back as Gilchrist whacked the Indian bowlers out of the contest after a first ball duck of Matthew Hayden.

54 runs were scored off the first five overs, at a screaming rate of 10 runs an over. It seemed there was just one team in the contest.

Electing to bat first on a wicket that a typical, turning Indian strip, Australia played safe, hoping to put pressure on the home team by setting a huge target.

This morning, at the team hotel, Aussie team manager Steve Bernard seemed unsure about the wicket, with no pattern emerging to strategize a plan.

Australia dropped Ian Harvey and included an extra batsman -- Michael Clarke - to add to their batting depth. The Indian side was unchanged.

Zaheer Khan bowled a signature opening over that dragged on for 11 balls, went for 12 runs and had four wides, a no ball and the prize wicket of Matthew Hayden.

The ball jumped at Hayden off a good length and ballooned towards point and India had stuck first blood.

Unfortunately, that seemed to be the only bright spark in a rather gloomy start to the game for the 45,000 spectators at the Wankhede stadium.

Dravid decided to alarm the Aussies by bowling Virender Sehwag in the second over of the innings. Playing spin on Indian tracks is, without doubt, Australia's Achilles heel and Dravid decided to exploit that weakness.

But 14 runs by Gilchrist, with three fours off Sehwag, saw Australia race to 26 for 1 after just two overs. Dravid soon realized his folly of employing Sehwag instead of Harbhajan Singh or Anil Kumble.

But Harbhajan then slowed things down at one end, though Zaheer was his usual generous self. Over-pitching and straying all over the wicket, Zaheer's three overs cost 37 runs.

In only his second over, Harbhajan foxed Gilchrist into playing the cut shot that was arrested by Mohammad Kaif diving to his right in the covers.  Gilchrist's 30-ball 41 had triggered off another huge total for Australia.

Ricky Ponting walked out and was lucky to survive an edge down leg side that eluded keeper Parthiv Patel. After a tame dismissal against India at Gwalior, Ponting got a measure of the track and launched into the Indian spinners. Boundaries of Harbhajan and Kumble forced Dravid to ring in a change. Another mercurial bowling change saw Ajit Agarkar trap Ponting in front for 31. The ball pitched on middle and could have crashed into leg stump. Ponting though seemed surprised with the decision.

Australia, at 93-3, in the 14th over were in danger of playing too aggressively and losing wickets regularly.

Agarkar was the surprise package of the Indian bowlers, returning a great first spell of six overs for 19 runs and rarely let the batters collar him.

Andrew Symonds and Damien Martyn then kept the tempo going, taking singles and punishing the loose balls. Though the runs came in at a premium, the screaming start by Gilchrist ensured that the Aussies would end up with a 275-plus total.

Symonds pulled a delivery from Yuvraj Singh that bounced higher than Symonds had expected. Harbhajan swallowed the catch in the deep and the Australians were 171-4 in the 30th over.

Symonds's 59-ball effort of 48 runs had ensured that the Aussies didn't fritter away the great start Gilchrist had given them.

The Indians had done well to restrict the Aussies to that score after 54 runs came in five overs. The Aussie batters managed to score just 117 runs in the next 25 overs.

Martyn deducted the pitch out of the equation as he registered his 18th one-day half-century in the 39th over. To bat with ease on a turning wicket was a feat in itself, but to make the frontline spinners look mediocre was truly the highlight of Martyn's batting.

Harbhajan on the other hand will be displeased with his second spell, in which he bowled too flat and failed to maintain a disciplined length. His figures of 10 overs for 44 runs and the prize wicket of Gilchrist might look respectable but the 'offie' will know that he could have bowled better in conditions that suited his bowling style.

Kumble too disappointed on a turning wicket, giving away 51 runs off his eight overs.

Martyn is easily one of the most underrated batsmen in world cricket. The exploits of top-order batsmen like Matthew Hayden, Gilchrist and Ponting always seem to pale his contribution to the success of the side. Ponting's century was the highlight of the World Cup final against India, but it was Martyn's 88 off 84 balls which made the 234-run partnership with Ponting possible.

With Bevan finding the gaps and picking the singles, Martyn clinically blasted the Indian attack after reaching his half-century. His first fifty came off 84 balls, but his second required only 34. There were 46 singles and only 10 fours in his century, thus giving an idea of the studied aggression he brings to his game.

Agarkar picked three wickets in the final over, which saw four Aussie wickets fall as the visitors finished with a total of 286 for 8.

Martyn departed soon after reaching his century, bowled by an Agarkar yorker; Bevan offered a simple catch to Kaif for 42 while Bichel was bowled off the last ball of the innings.

Michael Clarke was run-out by a brilliant pick-up and throw from Sachin Tendulkar.

The Aussies could pick just 72 runs of the final ten overs despite the presence of Bevan and six wickets standing.

Ironically, the last time also the Aussies played at the Wankhede, in the 1996 World Cup, against India, they lost four wickets in one over.

India innings:

The Australians could not have asked for a better start when India batted. Nathan Bracken ran in and trapped Virender Sehwag off the first ball of the Indian innings. Sehwag had no clue about the delivery as he stood with his feet glued to the crease, offering no stroke.

For the second time in the series Bracken had snapped up the dashing Indian opener for a blob.

Off the very next ball, Bracken rapped birthday boy V V S Laxman bang in front of the wicket with a similar delivery, but umpire Neil Mallender turned down the appeal. Two wickets with the first two balls would have ended the Indian chase even before it actually started.

Tendulkar, the highest run-getter at the Wankhede, played a piercing cover drive to convey his intentions. But luck was clearly sailing with the Indians. The master batsman moved across his stumps to flick Brad Williams, who was bowling at a lively pace, and was hit on the pads. The decision was tough but noticeable, but umpire A V Jayaprakash was not brave enough to lift his finger.

What could have been 8 for 3 was 9 for 1 and Australia realized they would have to dig deeper to win the game.

In box-fresh form, Laxman made batting look easy with a delectable flick off his pads to the mid-wicket fence. In Bracken's next over he square drove the ball to the fence and hit yet another four through mid-wicket to end the over.

But he and Tendulkar were guilty of not taking singles. With the Aussie bowlers drying up the boundaries, Laxman slashed wildly at Andy Bichel only to edge the ball to the keeper and was gone for 21. (2-38)

Skipper Dravid got off the mark with a copybook cover drive as India reeled at 49 for 2 after 10 overs.

Ponting introduced Andrew Symonds into the attack ahead of specialist spinner Brad Hogg and Tendulkar welcomed him with a straight four. Looking to dominate Symonds, Tendulkar attacked too soon and was beaten by the turn. The ball looped up towards mid-on but fell short of the fielder.

It was Tendulkar's third life after mistiming a hook of Williams and the LBW appeal in the second over of the innings.

The Indians were 74 for 2 at the end of 15 overs. The worrying stat was that only 8 singles were run in the 15 overs and 65 dot balls engulfed a good part of the innings. The 12 fours were probably the saving grace, but 65 dot balls off 90 deliveries are unacceptable in a chase of 287.

Tendulkar and Dravid regularly reached the fence after the field was spread and the partnership soon assumed dangerous proportions for the Aussies.

Tendulkar was on song having reached his third half-century on home ground and Dravid was playing his part to perfection. Symonds was the chief victim of Tendulkar's wrath. Two successive longhops were murdered to the mid-wicket fence as the duo approached their 100-run partnership. Fourteen runs came of the over and the match was flowing India's way.

Ponting realized that taking the pace of the ball was the only way to stop the run-flow. He employed left-arm spinner Michael Clarke to upset Tendulkar's rhythm.

Of the first ball Tendulkar faced, he moved towards leg and then shaped to manoeuvre the ball down to the third man fence. The ball missed the angled bat of Tendulkar and crashed into the off-stump.

Tendulkar hung his head in frustration and walked off with a respectful 68 runs. The job though was still unfinished though at 137-3. The Dravid-Tendulkar partnership was stranded on 99 off 100 balls.

Yuvraj Singh had twisted his ankle while fielding and seemed to be in some sort of pain when he took guard. He didn't last long, gloving a ball from Clarke to Gilchrist at the wicket. Yuvraj was beaten by the slow pace of the wicket and had finished his shot before the ball had reached him. (153-4)

Dravid still kept India in the fight, reaching his half-century in 56 balls with India still requiring 133 off 117 balls.

But with the asking rate swelling, he pulled out a reverse sweep that went low and straight to Andy Bichel at leg gully. Dravid's dismissal for 59 ended India's riposte. (172-5)

Mohammad Kaif, clearly struggling for form, will worry about his place in the side. His tame dismissal -- edging the ball to Gilchrist off Bracken -- put India in grave danger of handing Australia the bonus point. To prevent that from happening India had to score 228 - a further 53 runs when Kaif was gone, with the score reading 175-6. 

Wickets continued to tumble as India threw in the towel. Agarkar was out to a blinder following a running catch by Symonds, who caught the ball on the rebound.

Bracken took a sharp catch after unsettling Harbhajan Singh with a short ball and the Wankhede stadium was at its quietest.

Parthiv Patel's dismissal once again raises the issue of including a specialist keeper in the squad at the expense of a seventh batsman. How can Sourav Ganguly's absence be balanced by the inclusion of a wicketkeeper who is, at best, a lower order batsman?

He sent Brad Hogg straight down Clarke's throat after making 16, with India still 22 runs away from depriving Australia the bonus point.

These are tough questions that need to be answered before we set sail for Australia. If we struggle to beat a depleted Aussie team on our territory, in what state of mind will we be able to compete with them Down Under?

India were  bundled out for 209 runs. Australia head the league table with 13 points from three games.

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