After a terrific day in office, India are back in business. And, for now at least, in a big way.
Of course, it still is a long haul, but full points against Pakistan have kept India afloat in the Carlton and United Series.
“Having drawn a blank, we had nothing to lose... It’s just that our return home would have been confirmed straight after the league matches... So, we decided to blast our way — give the game our best shot. That’s what we did,” remarked MoM Sourav Ganguly.
The vice-captain wasn’t too emotional, but did have the look of total satisfaction.
“There’s nothing better than winning,” Sourav added, a remark which found an echo in what captain Sachin Tendulkar said: “One could sense it (the change) as we walked back to the dressing room...”
Sourav, who authored a rare innings (141 in 145 balls, 12x4, 1x6), had done much of the hard work after Sachin won the toss (Wasim Akram called wrong) and opted to bat on a wicket which turned out to be a Les Burdett beauty.
After setting Pakistan a massive 268 target, the Indians held everything that came their way — except Moin Khan, everybody was out caught — bowled some great spells and held nerve even when young Azhar Mehmood (67 from 50 balls, 7x4, 1x6) threatened to knock them out of the tournament.
“We really played well... We were positive from the beginning,” pointed out Sachin, whose top worry now will be to keep the momentum going for tomorrow’s match against Australia.
Back-to-back games, after all, take a heavy toll.
For India to have posted more than just a competitive total, it was essential that either Sachin or Sourav bat the distance. As it turned out, Sourav was there till the penultimate over.
Again, it was important that the Indians’ body-language, from ball No.1 itself, be aggressive. And so it was: A couple off the very first delivery (to Sachin) setting the tone. Sachin and Sourav, in fact, continued from where they left off at Hobart — it would have been a lot better had they continued there itself, but that now is part of history beyond the Bass Strait.
If their partnership was worth 99 in Hobart, today they collaborated 88. But for Sachin’s rather soft dismissal, pushing outside off, one-day cricket’s most high-profile pair would have forced an bigger frown on Akram’s face.
Sachin scored 41, the runs coming off 46 balls. Included were five boundary hits.
The captain’s departure brought together the two best buddies, Sourav and Rahul Dravid. But this tour has been one of struggle, for Dravid, and though he did get 32 before pulling Shahid Afridi down Inzamam-ul-Haq’s throat, the innings wasn’t a throwback to any of his sterling efforts.
Hrishikesh Kanitkar, preferred to V.V.S.Laxman, made a brief appearance while Robin Singh was again useful. But it’s Sourav who consistently made Pakistan sweat.
It’s taken for granted that Sourav will unleash the season’s most attractive off-side shots. This afternoon, he also posted a most mature innings.
Sourav wasn’t over-ambitious, picked gaps with ease and ensured the guys at the other end weren’t weighed down by an exceptional workload.
In a nutshell, it was a wonderful essay and the manner in which Sourav took on Akram, specially, was a lesson for those with big-time dreams. All along, Sourav has regarded Akram as being the most dangerous bowler. Today, in his own mind at least, Sourav reduced Akram to the status of mortals.
With just about everybody largely focussing on his ethereal drives, few actually noticed that Sourav’s footwork would even have attracted high marks from danseuse-wife Dona. Natty use of feet was certainly in evidence.
Sourav, who reached his 11th hundred in unhurried fashion, with a single, added 41 before falling to an inswinging yorker from Akram. The Pakistan captain did have his ‘revenge’, but he may still be haunted by Sourav’s panache.
As for Sourav, he won’t forget the standing ovation from the highly involved 11,000-plus turnout.
Sourav’s exit, with 10 deliveries remaining, probably saved Pakistan at least a dozen runs even though Jacob Martin did send the innings’ last ball (by Saqlain Mushtaq) crashing into the hoardings.
A healthy 67 runs came in the first ten overs; a handsome 72 in the last ten. Yes, there was a phase when Saqlain and Mehmood did check India’s advance but, overall, none can complain about the pacing.
Requiring to score at 5.36 an over, Pakistan got off to yet another poor start. Both openers, Saeed Anwar and Afridi, who is like a truant schoolboy not willing to learn from mistakes, were back within five overs.
For the out-of-form Inzamam, in particular, that was a night-marish situation. And, true to his current showing, he didn’t survive for long even though he had the in-form Ijaz Ahmed as partner.
Afridi and Inzamam fell to outstanding catches. The former was taken by Samir Dighe, who scrambled more than 30 yards, while Inzamam was caught on the ‘fence’ by Kanitkar.
He may not have contributed with the bat, but Kanitkar showed good cricket sense in making the most of a beefy offering.
Yousuf Youhana’s was the fourth wicket and following him after an impetuous hit was Ijaz. Till then, Ijaz had done nothing wrong, but he’ll probably never forgive himself for getting out to Anil Kumble.
That one dismissal put Kumble on a roll, and he made it real hot for Pakistan. Ijaz scored 54 (77 deliveries, 3x4), his third consecutive half-century of the competition.
Wicket No. 2 for Kumble was Moin, deceived by the googly. That reduced Pakistan to 128 for six, encouraging hopes of a very early finish. But the two young allrounders, Mehmood and Abdul Razzaq, weren’t looking to call it a day so soon.
It’s Mehmood, who first made headlines in the home series versus South Africa over two years ago, who took charge. And, almost on cue, the ball started heading for all corners of the Adelaide Oval. He pulled Robin for a four and then a six and, when Sachin re-introduced Srinath, thumped him for two boundaries.
That blistering assault saw Mehmood race to fifty in only 34 balls and, had Razzaq not chosen to do an Ijaz, victory would have been Pakistan’s.
Mehmood and Razzaq added 72 for the seventh-wicket at well over a run each delivery. Akram followed Razzaq, going for a hit he ought to have avoided — in fact, Srinath did well to beat one of the seagulls to the catch!
Saqlain couldn’t repeat his Brisbane heroics and Mehmood himself fell after a severe bout of cramps.
Kumble, on the verge of being dropped just a couple of matches ago, returned the best figures (four for 40), while the other three specialist bowlers shared the remaining wickets.
Pleasing, specially, was Mohanty’s first spell (9-0-35-1). It was a disciplined effort, though Mohanty could have done without a couple of ridiculous appeals.
This Bhubaneshwar lad has been underrated for much of his career. Hopefully, now, Mohanty will get the deal he deserves — it has to be a good one.
Obviously upset, Akram made the point about at least one of the top three batsmen going the distance. He also lauded Sourav, marvelling at his phenomenal off-side play.
Meanwhile, the thinktank is contemplating fielding offie Nikhil Chopra tomorrow. But, the tricky question is: Who to leave out? Normally, winning combinations aren’t disturbed, but...
Steve added: “Obviously, his absence made a difference... India probably missed Mohammed Azharuddin as well. His experience of 323 games... It’s up to India to learn from this tour and, yes, they’ve got to begin playing well away from home... We weren’t very good tourists either, till pretty recently. But, we learnt.”
Talking about the Indian team, generally, Steve praised Jawagal Srinath (“a stand-out bowler”) and picked Ajit Agarkar as the “find” of the tour. He didn’t have much else to say though, on an earlier occasion, he gave high marks to Sourav Ganguly.
Steve, of course, had lots to speak about the team he is currently leading. And, he paid the ultimate tribute: “This, really, is our greatest one-day side... In the past, we’ve always had 11-12 out-standing players, today, we have 15-16. That’s the difference.”
The world champions have already stormed into the Carlton and United Series final, winning five out of six matches. Tomorrow, they take on India. Australia’s last game, too, will be against India — in Perth, Sunday.
“Oh, no... There won’t be any let-up. We wish to keep standards high and somebody like Ian Harvey, who’ll be playing (on the morrow), will have lots to play for,” remarked Steve.
For somebody capable of even sleeping with the baggy green on, Steve firmly dismissed a report which suggested he himself could opt out. “Look, it’s an absolute honour captaining Australia and I have no wish to stay out of any match.”
With Australia rotating players, in this on-going series, Steve has had a ticklish job at hand. But, as he pointed out, the rotation bit has been accomplished smoothly. Yet another example of the outstanding system Down Under.
“The bottomline is communication... The guys have been told they are being rotated and rested, not dropped. They themselves understand and appreciate it,” Steve explained.
Communication will obviously be a key element in ‘sorting’ out the Shane Warne-Stuart MacGill issue. The former has recovered from the side strain while MacGill, Warne’s replacement, has straightaway hit form.
“It’s nightmarish (who to leave out)... Because of the quality of our quicks, we can’t field both leggies... It’s a great position to be in, but it’s difficult for me and the selectors,” Steve confessed.
Warne is “very keen” to play tomorrow itself, but Steve declared his comeback would be in Perth. “Being a pro, I can understand Shane wanting to return immediately, but the physio (Errol Alcott who, incidentally, himself needs knee surgery) wants him to rest for a few more days. Therefore, we’ll play Shane on Sunday.”
With everything rolling Australia’s way, Steve is in an enviable position. Typically modestly, however, he simply said: “I’ve been fortunate.”
But could Australia still do with some improvement? Steve was candid: “Yes, better opening partnerships, though it’s only a matter of time... We could bowl better in the last ten overs, too.”
That’s for the future. As of now with in-form batsmen, bowlers and allrounders, Steve has multiple options. Most captains would probably give anything to be in his shoes.
Significantly India’s nemesis, Glenn McGrath, will play on the morrow.
Having failed to get autographs and photographs, both during the Test and the one-dayer there, Anthony Edwards (29), Jarrod Nunn (19) Daniel Koek (17) undertook the nine-hour Melbourne to Adelaide drive (in Nunn’s Ford Fairlaine) to catch up with their hero.
They came last night itself, and immediately parked themselves in the team hotel’s lobby. But as it was rather late, Sachin could only oblige this morning.
“Sachin’s not just the best batsman around, he is a most thorough gentleman... We drove over for him, but wouldn’t think of doing that for any of our guys. Most of the Australian cricketers, after all, have little time for fans,” remarked Nunn, as Edwards and Koek nodded in agreement.
Not that one needed confirmation, but the trio reaffirmed Sachin’s standing, on and off the field.
There was some surprise in store for the handful of spectators in today’s Coca-Cola National League match between Tollygunge Agrgami and Churchill Brothers.
The Calcutta team cornered the Goan League leaders right from the start, hit the woodwork twice, had a genuine penalty disallowed and came close on several other occasions.
Churchill, on the other hand, did what matters most: Capitalised on a defensive error to score in the 19th minute and collect full points which put them firmly on top, with 22 points from ten matches. It left Tollygunge with 13 after ten.
Those expecting fireworks from Churchill, with top scorer Francis Silveira and Ukrainian Andrei Malchevsky in their ranks, were disappointed as Tollygunge came up with another inspired performance. Amal Dutta’s men, without suitable replacements for regular defenders Kajal Bhattacharya and Biswanath Mondal, paid dearly for the 19th-minute error to be left ruing what could have been.
Somatai Shaiza played a quick one-two with Ukrainian Mikola Shevchenko and essayed a classy right-footed first-timer to the far corner for the lone goal of the match. The execution was smart but they were hardly challenged by right-back Soumen Sarkar and right-stopper Nilanjan Guha.
Tollygunge were denied a penalty in the eighth minute when Churchill left-back Danzie Ferrao had to use his arm to stop Sasthi Duley’s low cross but Madhya Pradesh referee R.D. Sow was nowhere near the spot. The officials had a bad day as most of the off-side calls, in favour of both teams, appeared to be ill-adjudged.
Tollygunge skipper Chandan Das had another good match and two of his shots, one in each half, rocked the upright after beating goalkeeper Edward Ansah. The Ghanaian goalkeeper rescued his team in the 42nd minute when he got his fingertips to Srikanta Dutta’s surprise right-footer from an acute angle.
Dutta, however, failed to net the equaliser in the 75th minute when Duley’s stinging shot slipped out of Ansah’s palms but the lanky striker’s feeble header off the rebound gave the goalkeeper enough time to recover and get a hand on the ball which chanegd the direction of the goal-bound object.
Churchill defender Mahesh Singh, who replaced Anthony Pereira in the 72nd minute, was sent off eight minutes later for two needless fouls both of which earned him a booking.
1 pm: Almost Heaven 1. Step In Time 2. Alumina 3.
1.35 pm: Kass 1. Pretty Boy Floyd 2. Sleek Gold 3.
2.10 pm: All Heart 1. Veena’s Pet 2. Added Asset 3.
2.45 pm: Pearl Crown 1. Jungle Cat 2. Breaking News 3.
3.25 pm: Love And Honor 1. Beat The Dust 2. Googy Gangster 3.
4 pm: Acrobat 1. Alderney 2. Ministerian 3.
4.35 pm: Silver Hope 1. Ammunition 2. Amalgamate 3.
5.10 pm: Regal Equity 1. Carnival Flair 2. Amazing Win 3.
5.45 pm: Sea Witch 1. Deep Star 2. Dior 3.
Day’s Best: Regal Equity Double: Silver Hope & Sea Witch.
Outer sand track
1,400m: Astrodance (M.Reuben) in 1-36s; (400m) 28s. Fit. Artifact (Sur-ender) in 1-47s; (400m) 29s. Easy.
1.200m: Aflicker (M. Reuben) and Artwork (C. Alford) in 1-24s; (400m) 30s. Former 3 ls better. Latter was easy. Ispahan (Akhtar) and Harry The Horse (Connorton) in 1-31s; (400m) 30 1/5s. Both level. Annella (Amil) in 1-341/5s; (400m) 30 3/5s. Gul (Engineer) and Answerable (Locke) in 1-35s; (400m) 27 3/5s.
1,000m: Acceptor (C. Alford) and Treasurer (Surender) in 1-9s; (400m) 27s. Former moved well and finshed ahead by 6 ls. Smooth Jazz (Connorton) and Zingari (Som S.) in 1-16s; (400m) 27s. Both level. Avionic (C. Alford) and Armed Alarm (M. Reuben) in 1-15s; (400m) 29 2/5s. Former 2 ls better. Amarula (Surender) and Quizzical (A. P. Singh) in 1-11s; (400m) 28s. Both were easy.
800m: Merano (Rb) 53s; (400m) 28s. Moved well. Silver City (C. Alford) in 53s; (600m) 40s; (400m) 26 4/5s. Fit. Vested Interest (Manhohar) in 57s; (400m) 28s. Easy. No 65 (Islam) and No. 57 (M. Reuben) in 58 1/5s; (400m) 29 4/5s. Former 4 ls better. A Million Memories (Bird) in 53s; (400m) 26s. Handy. Sixteen Sixtyfour (Bird) and Generous Present (Surender) in 56s; (400m) 26 4/5s. Former a head better. As Ever (C. Alford) in 53s; (400m) 25 3/5s. Good. Sheerness (Amil) in 59s; (400m) 29 2/5s. Imperial Choice (Som S.) in 55s; (400m) 26 2/5s. Fit and well. Mikado (Tamang) in 1-4s; (400m) 29 2/5s. Tsaynen Blue (Shanker) and Madame X (Rb) in 58s; (400m) 26 2/5s. Former 4 ls better. Bountiful Treasure (C. Alford) in 53s; (400m) 26s. Good.
600m: Joe The Pro (C. Alford) and Master Of The Rolls (Connorton) in 38s; (400m) 25s. Former a head better. Double Crown (Rb) in 42s; (400m) 28s.
1,400m: Storm Centre (Locke) in 1-41s; (400m) 24 2/5s. Handy.
1,200m: Island Empress (Shanker) in 1-29s; (400m) 29 4/5s.
1,000m: Sky Hawk (Sher S.) in 1-10 2/5s; (400m) 25s. Easy. Aristotemus (Sher S.) in 1-15s; (400m) 27 2/5s.
800m: Strictly Royal (Rb) in 59s; (400m) 27s. Aznavour (Connorton) and Mameena (Som S.) in 52; (400m) 24s. Former a neck better. Rheinheart (Rb) in 52 3/5s; (400m) 24 3/5s. Moved well. Tequila Shot (Shanker) and The Epicurean (Akhtar) in 49s; (400m) 23 2/5s. Former was well ahead.