Brisbane: Captain cool Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s calm and composed half-century was not enough for India on Sunday. The “finisher” tag which he gained with his recent exploits was to no avail at the Gabba, as he bowed down to the pressure built by the Australian batsmen, Mr Cricket Mike Hussey in particular, at the death.
Indian batsmen fell at regular intervals and failed to bat out their full quota of 50 overs. The chase ended at 178 all out in 43.3 overs. The result: Australia won by 110 runs that helped them pick a bonus point.
One could see the smile back on Ricky Ponting’s face. Few months back when India knocked out the Ponting-led Australian team in the World Cup quarters, it cost him the captaincy and almost his place in the team. Now, as the stand-in skipper, Ponting looked relieved after the victory against India in the ongoing tri-series on Sunday. Chasing a victory target of 289 runs, India ran out of steam after the first innings and the batsmen were in a hurry to return to the pavilion.
Like their strong batting line-up, Australian bowling, too, was equally sharp. Ben Hilfenhaus, who troubled India during the Test series, was the tormentor-in-chief (and of course Man of the Match) today as well. He ended the day with the figures of 9.3-1-33-5
They made the first breakthrough in the second over by removing the in-form Gautam Gambhir. He edged behind a Brett Lee delivery. Sachin Tendulkar, who is still chasing his 100th 100, followed suit. The master blaster gave away to an easy catch to Doherty when he tried to loft a short ball from Hilfenhaus towards third man.
Soon, a flurry of wickets put India into further trouble with the visitors losing Rohit Sharma (0) and Virat Kohli (12) in quick succession. India were 37/4 at the end of 11th over.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina tried to build a stable partnership and hope for the fifth wicket, but the partnership soon crumbled when Raina got dismissed for 28 runs from 41 balls. He tried to slap a short delivery from Daniel Christian but ended up getting a thick edge behind to put an end to their partnership at 46.
Carrying more than a billion’s hopes on his shoulder, thanks to his exploits in previous matches, Dhoni pushed the scoring slowly but the required run rate mark climbed up at a fast pace. Irfan Pathan, who joined the captain after Jadeja’s departure, produced some scintillating shots giving fans some hope, only to be snuffed out soon. Dhoni departed, scoring 56 runs, without completing the mission this time around. His hard-fought half century included two fours and one six. Pathan was dismissed scoring 19.
Earlier, Mike Hussey came to the rescue for Australia yet again. He and Peter Forrest steered the hosts to a fighting total of 288/5. Daniel Christian and David Hussey took off from where Mike Hussey and Forrest left and gave a clinical finish to their first innings. Together they made 50 runs off 29 balls for the sixth-wicket partnership.
Indians were kind enough to Hussey (dropping a couple of catches) albeit he showed no mercy towards their opponents and repaid them back by grabbing the momentum to build a solid inning and a decent total. By the time the 36-year-old walked back to the pavilion, he along with Peter Forrest, completed a 100-run partnership and towed Australia out from the danger zone. There were 217 runs on board after 43 overs.
Soon, Forrest, too, followed, but not before making his second 50 of the series. He made 52 off 71 balls. Irfan Pathan struck on both occasions to make it three wickets for the all-rounder when Forrest hit the ball to deep square leg where a stylish Virat Kohli collected it safely. That was followed by a typical Kohli celebration with an ear-cupping gesture facing the crowd.
A four-pronged pace attack on a seaming-friendly pitch couldn’t bring Mahendra Singh Dhoni to stop the Aussies’ steady progress. The bowlers were not outstanding if not worse, barring Umesh Yadav. He couldn’t control the flow of runs. Irfan Pathan did some clever bowling to grab three wickets but was not smart enough to impede the scoring rate.
After choosing to bat first, Australian openers made a low-key start. Interestingly, this was their best start in the series so far, though it took off in a slow pace. A hesitant Warner was too cautious in his approach early on but picked tempo as the game progressed and went on to make 43 - his highest score of the series - before falling to Irfan Pathan.
India controlled the first five overs of the Australian innings and restricted them to 17. In the eighth over Warner amassed 14 runs in one Zaheer Khan over to put pressure on Indian bowlers for the first time in the innings. It included two boundaries and one six. Australian stand-in skipper, who followed Warner, continued his scrappy form and bowed down before Zaheer for just seven runs.
However, Australia should have been one down as early as in the third ball of the innings if not for a mix-up in the first slip between Rohit Sharma and Sachin Tendulkar. He tried to steal a catch, which was actually headed towards first slip to Tendulkar. Sharma, who was fielded in the second slip, came flying across to touch and drop it.
Matthew Wade became the second batsman who failed to convert his 40s to a half-century in the innings after Warner. He was caught and bowled at 45 by Sharma to compensate for the dropped catch early in the innings.
Meanwhile, the match was hit by an umpiring blunder when Australian batsman Mike Hussey was first given out and later called back after the third umpire Australian Bruce Oxenford hit the red button instead of green for a stumping appeal. This fiasco clearly prompted a clearly agitated Dhoni to express his unhappiness over the issue to umpire Billy Bowden.
With the win on Sunday, Australia reached the top of the table with 14 points, followed by India with 10 points (both from 5 games).