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India mauled at the SCG

By Faisal Shariff
Last updated on: February 08, 2004 16:26 IST
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In what will go down as one of the most spineless displays on a cricket field, India, replying to Australia's record total of 359 for 5, were dismissed for 151 and lost the second of the best-of-three VB Series finals by a huge margin of 208 runs at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday.

Ironically, the defeat came after its finest Test series in Australia.

Earlier, an innings of the highest quality from Matthew Hayden (126), a glorious 157-run partnership with Damien Martyn (67) and a gruesome 66 off just 39 balls from Andrew Symonds at the end saw Australia post the highest total ever on Australia soil.

India innings:

Virender Sehwag kicked off India's riposte with a six off the first ball of the innings. It seemed the team was determined to go down fighting, or at least make a charge for the huge total. But all that changed when they lost five wickets inside the first 15 overs with only 56 runs on the board.

First Sehwag flicked Jason Gillespie off his hips, only for Brett Lee to take a sharp catch at backward square leg.

Sachin Tendulkar followed him in similar fashion, after threatening to tear the attack. The catcher was Lee and bowler Gillespie. The trick had worked.

Indians, who are brilliant players of anything pitched on leg, were undone by their own strengths. VVS Laxman was dismissed two balls later when Lee took his third catch of the match, this time off his own bowling. Laxman patted a ball just as it bounced; it took the bat and flew to the bowler.

At 49-3, the prospect of a keen contest and some entertaining batting from the best middle-order in the world was fast fading. Rahul Dravid, who broke the world record of not registering a duck in 120 one-day innings in the last match at Melbourne, went for a duck when a direct throw from Martyn did him in.

Sourav Ganguly, after being greeted with the customary bouncer, cut a ball to Symonds at point in the 15th over for 3. (56-5)

Minutes later, Yuvraj Singh was caught at the wicket and India were 59 for 6. A banner held by an Australian supporter read, "We should have played Zimbabwe." Another read: "Get India to follow-on." It explained the mood at the ground and in all of India.

Irfan Pathan and Hemang Badani batted for time and ensured that India would record the worst margin of defeat in one-dayers. After their dismissals, Ashish Nehra and Balaji followed soon.

Four years ago, chasing a score of 300 against Sri Lanka, India were bowled out for 54 in Sharjah. Just when you thought such collapses were history in Indian cricket, today's collapse will give enough demons for the players to exorcise for the rest of their lives, leave alone careers.

There is no shame in losing as long as lack of effort is never the reason. After Perth, questions were asked about the reasons for India's success. And even though India batted with aplomb in the Test series it was important for the team to put up a similar show in the one-day series.

Australia innings:

With Ajit Agarkar missing from the Indian eleven, Australia had more reason to be upset. Through the series the Aussie openers have targetted him as the bowler to go after, with a generous helping from the lanky Mumbaikar himself.

An injured Anil Kumble gave Murali Kartik another chance to have a go at the Australians.

India's ability to chase runs was to be tested when Ricky Ponting won the toss and elected to bat first on a Sydney wicket, where the only hint of green was the one on the Australian jerseys.

For India to stop the Australian openers from settling the match at the top of the innings every early chance had to be taken; every quarter chance had to be converted into a wicket and every shy at the stumps had to count.

A chance came along in the third over of the match when Matthew Hayden stole a single, but Sachin Tendulkar, at mid-off, missed a direct throw.

The hosts toyed with the Indian bowling through the series and today was no different. The openers swapped methods and Adam Gilchrist, usually the more aggressive of the two, played second fiddle to Hayden.

It was Hayden who hit the boundary ropes regularly while Gilchrist dropped the ball with soft hands and stole the singles.

Irfan Pathan and L Balaji went for more than seven an over and the openers gathered runs without much fuss. It was one of those days when the bats swung instead of the ball.

The fifty was up in the eighth over, with Hayden scoring 26 and Gilchrist just 19. First change Ashish Nehra came on and Gilchrist was raring to have a go at him. The first shot off Nehra fell short of Ganguly at mid-on; the next one went flying through mid-wicket and mid-on for four. Trying to get on top of the bowling, Gilchrist pulled Nehra again; the ball climbed on him and flew to Ganguly at mid-on. Australia were 62 for 1 in the ninth over and Gilchrist was gone for 29.

Pathan returned for his second spell and had Ponting, over-confident from his knock of 88 in the first final, playing a wild slog. The ball angled across him took the wood en route to the keeper.

Ganguly's first two bowling changes worked and Australia seemed to have lost a wicket too many too early.

At 73-2, India had picked two huge wickets and were bowling to the rusty Damien Martyn. But, surprisingly, barring the single slip, there were no close-in fielders, no gully and no short balls bowled to him.

Hayden was not going to stop his torrent at the other end and scored his half-century off just 37 balls, with eight fours and a huge six over long-off, off Balaji.

At 99 for 2 after 15 overs, Australia had a set perfect platform for a 300-plus total. For India, wickets were the only way to stay in the game.

Kartik got his first bowl of the match and Ganguly had ensured that another wicket was snapped with the bowling change. Kartik had Hayden trapped in front with one that pitched on leg and was heading for the top of off-stump. Australian umpire Daryl Harper though turned the appeal down.

Hayden, with some lusty blows off the spinners, raced away to his fourth one-day hundred --- the third against India --- off just 95 balls. It was an innings that easily explained Hayden's affinity for the on-side. Seventy per cent of his runs were scored through the on-side with just two of his nine boundaries scored on the off. Such was the conviction of his stroke-play that ninety per cent of the deliveries he faced were off the middle of the bat.

Australia were 180 for 2 after 30 overs and the ghosts of the 2003 World Cup returned to haunt the Indians.

It was ironic that the very team that led Martyn into his worst form helped him get out of it as it prepared to leave Australian shores. Martyn reached his first fifty in nine innings and with it Australia crossed the 200-run mark in the 33rd over.         

Martyn played an innings that exemplified his character. A man for the big occasion, he scored his runs at a fair clip, eschewing the big shots and concentrating on the singles. The large number of singles --- he had 36 singles to 29 dot balls --- ensured that even when he wasn't middling the ball or finding the fence, the runs were trickling into his account.

Martyn pulled a short one from Pathan straight down the throat of Hemang Badani at the mid-wicket fence for 67. Pathan clapped mockingly at Martyn, who, in crybaby fashion, complained to the umpire as he walked off the ground after scoring his highest score ever on it.

The two men had combined for a potentially match-winning third wicket partnership of 157 of 27 overs. 

Off the last ball of the same over, Pathan induced an edge of Hayden that flew to the keeper Dravid, who just tossed the ball up in celebration only to see umpire Rudi Kuertzen turn down the appeal. Even Hayden, who looked back as soon as he nicked the ball, was surprised.

The reprieve gave Hayden a feeling of immortality as he went for every ball with venomous animosity. But minutes after surviving the caught behind, he was bowled, trying to reverse sweep Tendulkar.

Hayden's 126 off 122 balls was replete with brilliant strokes and dazzling footwork

Symonds began with some bold lofted strokes to leg in his determination to hold the initiative set by Hayden. Even as India were getting ready for a total of 300-310, he decided to extend the run-orgy for a bit longer and the result was the difference between a difficult target and an impossible one.

Michael Clarke and Symonds got together and plundered runs of the Indian bowling as if they were just swinging in the nets. 99 runs were smashed off 45 balls even as Symonds got to his ninth fifty from just 32 balls.

It will go down as one of the finest fifties without a single cover drive. When Symonds was finally gone for 66 off 39 balls in the last over, yorked by Nehra, the damage had been done.

Simon Katich got two consecutive boundaries as Australia managed to equal the total of 359 they registered in the World Cup final at the Wanderers.

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Faisal Shariff

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