Feroz Khan/Zeenews Sports Bureau
Sydney: India’s famed batting lineup crumbled again in a crucial clash on Sunday as they succumbed to 87-run defeat to Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
Batting first, Australia were restricted to a gettable total of 252/9 runs by India. However, their batsman couldn’t even manage to last their quota of 50 overs as they were bundled out for just 165 runs.
With this defeat, Australia qualified for the finals of the triangular series leaving India’s fate dependent on the outcome of the final two matches. If Australia defeat Sri Lanka and India too manage to repeat the feat but with a bonus point, then they will have slight chance of qualification provided they have a superior run rate.
The misery continues
Bolstered by the inclusion of ‘Big Three’ in the top order, the Indian team looked to leave behind the off-field controversies with a victory as they embarked upon a chase of 253 runs posted by Australia in their first innings. But the script and the climax remained unchanged as they were outclassed by their opposition after a promising start.
Indian bowlers put up a commendable effort to restrict Australia under 260 runs while overcoming their major deficiency of leaking runs in the death overs. However, the batsmen surrendered meekly without offering a fight.
The signs were ominous from the first ball bowled by Brett Lee as Virender Sehwag chased a wide off-stump delivery but missed it. It was clear what Lee was thinking. However, Sehwag (5) would have felt unlucky as he was snapped up brilliantly by Ben Hilfenhaus of his own bowling.
Sachin Tendulkar and in-form batsman Gautam Gambhir then joined hands to steer the innings after the early setback. Sachin Tendulkar (14) again looked in good touch but his stay with partner Gambhir lasted for exactly five overs. He ran himself out after misjudging a quick single that was made more difficult as the bowler, Brett Lee, stood in his path towards the batsman’s end.
Kohli and Gambhir tried stabilizing the innings from thereon building a stand of 44 runs before stand-in captain Shane Watson broke the partnership in his first over. He first removed Kohli and then came back in his third over to end Raina’s (8) innings. The lefties in the Indian team (read Gambhir, Raina and Jadeja) fell in a similar fashion trying to poke at deliveries going away from them without offering any foot movement.
The misery of Indian batting could be easily deduced from the fact that only four of their batsmen managed to cross 20 runs (Gambhir-23, Virat Kohli-21, Ashwin-26 and Irfan Pathan-22).
None of their batsmen showed any will to stay on the crease perishing one after the other failing to build on the starts. Even captain MS Dhoni, who has acquired the sobriquet of ‘Finisher’, failed to inspire this time. He went into a shell, to stem the flow of wickets managing 14 (49b) before being trapped by Hilfenhaus.
Left arm spinner Xavier Doherty cleaned the tail with the wickets of Ravichandran Ashwin and Praveen Kumar.
Earlier in the match, Australia didn’t have a positive start to their innings losing the wickets of their captain Watson and in-form batsman Peter Forrest to Praveen in the first seven overs. Shane Watson fell while trying to pull Kumar over in-field but failing to time the ball correctly holing out to Umesh Yadav at mid-on. Second to fall was Peter Forrest who chopped one to his stumps while attempting to play a clever slower one from Praveen. Praveen Kumar, playing after a long injury lay-off, bowled a superb first spell to quell doubts over his form. He first spell figures were 5-1-9-2.
Shane Watson’s comeback to the Australian side as a stand-in captain didn’t prove to be a fruitful one at least as a batsman. Watson, however made up for his failure with the bat by claiming two crucial Indian wickets besides taking two catches as well.
Mr. Cricket Michael Hussey could only shake his head in utter disappointment as he was run out due to lack of understanding with his partner David Warner. His wicket put Australia in some trouble that was quickly dispelled with the arrival of his brother David Hussey.
The two Davids, especially Warner, were unfazed as they built up a fifty run partnership in 7.4 overs to steer their team’s score past the 100-run mark.
Warner-Hussey to the rescue
David Warner (68) began his innings uncharacteristically playing out the first over without scoring a run. He stretched his arms by the end of second over when he edged Irfan Pathan over the slips for a boundary. He added seven more of those to his account.
A handsome and perfectly driven shot off Umesh Yadav towards cover for a boundary took his tally past fifty runs showing that he was in fine nick.
His wicket was a painful one for the Indians as his catch took two Indian fielders down as he surrendered his wicket to Ravindra Jadeja.
Warner top-edged Jadeja towards fine square leg and in came charging Suresh Raina and Irfan Pathan to claim the catch unaware of each other’s actions. The result, Raina caught the ball but immediately collided with Pathan punching him on his ribs. Both of them lay on the ground in pain as Pathan left the field afterwards looking uncomfortable.
He did return to the field but didn’t bowl again after his first spell of five overs in which he gave 28 runs.
David Hussey (54) continued his superb form with the bat notching yet another fifty (fourth of the series) to forge crucial partnerships with Warner and Wade. He took the less flamboyant approach dealing in singles and doubles, hitting only two boundaries and built a strong 94-run stand with Mathew Wade who also completed a half century of his own.
Obstruction in the field
One of the interesting moments of the innings came during the 24th over when Indian team appealed for obstructing the field and it proved to be a tough one for the umpires. Mathew Wade played one towards short cover and took off for a quick single. Suresh Raina threw the ball towards the keeper and Hussey stretched out his hand to stop the ball from hitting him. Dhoni appealed for it and after much deliberations, the third umpire adjudged it not out. Clearly, Dhoni wasn't a happy man as his prolonged discussion with the on-field umpire contesting the decision even after the third umpire had given his verdict.
Death overs conquered
A problem with the Indian bowling has been their tendency to lose grounds in the final overs of the innings, leaking way too many runs. However, the Sunday’s match proved to be a different one as their bowlers leaked only 47 runs while taking four wickets including the wicket of Mathew Wade (56).
Virender Sehwag was the tormentor-in-chief as he struck thrice to claim the wickets of Clint McKay, Brett Lee and Daniel Christian. The regular wickets kept India in charge even as Australians kept recovering from the setbacks.