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Monday, October 30, 2006

Champions Trophy: India outclassed by World Champions

At the end of over no.42, India were not too badly placed at 197 for 4, with Mohammad Kaif and Mahender Singh Dhoni doing duty for India in the middle of the Punjab Cricket Association Ground at Mohali, Chandigarh in the last league match of the ICC Champions Trophy 2006. Things took a turn from there on, as the World Champions took control of the match, first with the ball and then with the bat. Riding on controlled late spells by the pace duo of Lee and Mc Grath and superb knocks from skipper Ponting and man-of-the-match Damien Martyn, Australia thrashed India by 6 wickets and qualified for the semi-finals in style.
Australian Cricketer

Earlier in the day, Rahul Dravid won the toss, and as expected, elected to bat. Considering the recent form of the Indian batsmen, the team got off to a reasonably good start. Tendulkar and Sehwag laid a good foundation, though Tendulkar himself got out cheaply for 10. His opening partner however struck form at the right time – there is something about Sehwag, for a man badly out of form (he had 54 runs from his previous 6 innings), he is almost arrogantly confident. In the very first ball of the match, Sehwag swung the bat and guided the ball to the third man. Not once did he look out of touch against Lee, Mc Grath or any of the other Aussie bowlers. Compare this to the in-form Tendulkar, who took his own sweet time getting settled down, opening his account not before he had faced a dozen balls already. Sehwag had already raced to 21 by then. Dravid continued with the good work and the platform had been created. What was needed now was for the stroke-makers to come to the party.

Therein India failed, and miserably so. Raina coming in before the free-playing Pathan was a wrong ploy, and it cost India dear with him failing even to rotate the strike. This was the period when Lee, who had been expensive earlier, sent down a maiden 43rd over, following it up with just a single off his next over. India should have reached in excess of 275, and fell short by a good twenty five runs. In the hindsight, you could well say that the way Australia batted, even 275 would not have been enough. But twenty five more runs would have put further pressure on the batsmen, and what would have happened then, you would never know. However, that was not the case and the Aussie openers ripped the Indian quickies apart without ever really playing a risky shot. Pathan and Munaf did not have the pace to rattle the batsmen, and both Gilchrist and Shane Watson settled in comfortably. While Gilchrist scored his first two boundaries against Pathan, Watson scored his first two against Patel. When they were bowling a fuller length, the line was too wide and when it was dug in short, either didn’t have the speed to make it count. 26 runs were scored off the 7th and 8th overs and from there on the run rate never fell below 6 till the 25th over. Skipper Ponting joined in the fun later and scored a brisk 58. Not afraid to come out of his crease, he never really allowed Harbhajan or Mongia to really dominate the proceedings. While Mongia impressed with his spinners, Harbhajan should have bowled a more attacking line. He bowled too flat and too defensively, and the batsmen were quite happy to let him do that. Among the two, Mongia was the one who looked like taking any wickets. And he did that in his very first over. At 111/2, Damien Martyn trodded in, to play his most memorable innings in recent times. Martyn started off catiously against the spinners, but when he finally opened himself up, he was on song. Much like his skipper, Martyn used his feet well against the spinners. Including a beautiful inside-out drive over the cover fence against Mongia, he struck eight lucid boundaries. When he finally flicked a low full toss from Patel to the midwicket boundary, Martyn broke Australia’s jinx against India in the Champions Trophy. For India, it was all over.

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