| Sachin Tendulkar evades a bouncer Saturday. (AP/PTI)
Centurion: India plunged to a new low in their World Cup history when they allowed Australia a runaway nine-wicket win in a one-sided group A encounter here on Saturday.
A pathetic batting display saw them shot out for 125 runs with only four batsmen managing double figures, Sachin Tendulkar’s 36 being the top score. Australia hit up the required runs quickly, scoring 128 in 22.2 overs losing just opener Adam Gilchrist.
This is India’s lowest-ever score in 28 years of the Cup, much below their previous low of 158 against the same opponents in Trent Bridge in 1983.
India will now have to win three of their next four matches to have a chance of qualifying for the Super Six from the group. Their future opponents include Pakistan, England and Zimbabwe, besides Namibia.
In yet another disgraceful batting performance, the Indians were bowled out well inside their quota of overs for the eighth time in the last ten one-day matches, enabling Australia to score their second emphatic victory in a row following their 82-run triumph over Pakistan.
The much-vaunted Indian batting line-up continued their nightmarish run of form, suffering a collective failure against a side that had gambled by going in with only three fast bowlers and an inexperienced spinner.
This performance was in keeping with India’s dismal show in their first match against the Netherlands in which they struggled to reach 204 before being bowled out by the minnows. Against the Australians, it required a late rally from Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble to ensure that the team went past the 100-run mark.
Skipper Sourav Ganguly, who has run out of words to explain India’s poor batting, found his pre-match optimism ringing hollow as he himself started the collapse in the most irresponsible fashion.
Having perfected the art of edging catches behind the wicket, Sourav threw his bat at a wide delivery from Brett Lee to give wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist catching practice.
Not to be outdone by his captain, Virender Sehwag successfully edged an even wider delivery in the bowler’s next over, leaving Lee, who probably would have been reprimanded by his captain for bowling such deliveries, unable to believe his luck.
Tendulkar, who had just started to open up having hit Glenn McGrath for 14 runs in an over, had to restrain himself. The seven overs following the loss of two wickets produced just four runs, including a no-ball, as he and vice-captain Rahul Dravid and went into a shell.
Then Dravid, who was let off by Damien Martyn in the slips, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif were dismissed in quick succession to leave India reeling at 50 for five in the 18th over.
Dravid, who scratched around for 23 balls in making one run, dragged a wide Jason Gillespie delivery on to his stumps. Yuvraj (0) fell leg before wicket to McGrath and Kaif (1 from 16 balls) extended his horrendous form by giving a catch to Andrew Symonds at backward square leg.
Australian captain Ricky Ponting utilised his bowling resources well, using his frontline fast bowlers for the majority of the first 30 overs. So when Brad Hogg, the sole spinner and the part-timers came on to bowl, there were no recognised Indian batsmen left.
Tendulkar added 28 runs for the sixth wicket with Mongia before being done in by a slow and low Gillespie delivery that hit his pads plumb in front. Two runs later, Mongia also returned to pavilion, caught brilliantly by Symonds off Lee.
At 80 for seven in the 29th over, India were in real danger of being shot out within 100 runs before Harbhajan Singh came up with a characteristic knock, hitting four fours and a six in a 32-ball 28.
In a spirited rearguard action, Harbhajan put on 40 runs for the eighth wicket with Kumble — the highest partnership of the innings — before being trapped leg before by Hogg. Kumble made 16 before running out of partners.
Faced with a meagre target, Australia made mincemeat of the Indian attack. Openers Matthew Hayden and Gilchrist strung together a 100-run partnership in less than 18 overs. Gilchrist was stumped by Dravid off Kumble for 48 before Hayden and Ponting completed the formalities.
Hayden remained unbeaten on 45, which included one four and two sixes, and Ponting on 24.