| McKenzie: Match-winning knock
Dhaka: This might just be the push the Indians needed prior to the final. They had appeared a bit relaxed and Friday’s defeat will put them in the right frame of mind for the title showdown.
In contrast, the South Africans will gain that extra confidence while announcing that they will be a force to reckon with. The Indians stuttered in the middle stages of their innings and had to pay dearly for the lapses.
The pitch had eased out considerably in the second session making the task of the bowlers that wee bit difficult. In the end, the target of 216 proved too little to defend.
Harbhajan Singh did raise a glimmer of hope once he dismissed Boeta Dippenaar and Herschelle Gibbs in his first over. But that proved inadequate as the others lacked the penetration.
Defending a meagre total always demands wickets at regular intervals and the Indians did not live up to the task. Zaheer Khan’s absence was felt right through.
First it was the Neil McKenzie-Jacques Rudolph 63-run stand for the fourth wicket that steadied the innings and then Man of the Match McKenzie got together with Mark Boucher to almost sail home.
The pair added 107 runs for the fifth wicket to set up the five-wicket victory.
It was McKenzie’s day. He was undeterred by the double off-spin attack and concentrated on the ones and the twos to build on the foundation. His 84 came off 110 balls and included just five boundaries.
Boucher’s efforts cannot also go unnoticed. His experience came in handy as he played the supporting role to perfection.
In fact, it was this experience that the Indians sorely missed. If the Indian innings is divided into two parts, it reveals that 124 runs were scored till Sourav Ganguly stayed put.
Once he left after the 30th over, the middle and late-order floundered managing just 91. Not without reason, the Indian skipper showed his frustration at failing to clear the long-off fielder. Even Virender Sehwag, who came back after being forced to retire hurt at 14, failed to help the team’s cause.
The South African pacers made the most of the pace and the bounce on the track put to use only for the second time in the meet.
Shaun Pollock was expensive initially as Sehwag gambled upon disturbing his rhythm. Inevitably runs were scored square of the wicket as India galloped away. At the other end, Makhaya Ntini (three for 37) was difficult to get away.
Having scalped Gautam Gambhir early, he got one to bounce a shade more than expected which hit Sehwag on the right forearm. In excruciating pain, Sehwag was taken for a precautionary X-ray. It revealed no fracture. The swelling, however, does persist.
Sourav was not deterred by all this. He was timing the ball to perfection and the bounce posed no big threat. In one sense it was predictable, a ball on the off-stump line and he would cream through cover.
He was more discreet once the field restrictions were lifted but was never restrained. Sourav is now just 114 short of completing 9000 ODI runs.
The 61 off 83 balls had put India on the right track but the middle-order showed the lack of experience against a quality attack. Alan Dawson (four for 49) pounced on the opportunity as the batsmen were not comfortable negotiating his slower delivery. Besides varying his pace, he struck the right line to tempt the batsmen into attempting extravagant shots. The Man of the Match award could well have ended up in his hands.
The failure of Mohammed Kaif and Dinesh Mongia (who crossed 1000 runs) once more brought to the fore their inability to take the initiative.
They have played enough cricket over the years to come out of the shadows of their seniors and survive in crunch situations. Kaif was lucky to have reached 30 as he survived an easy chance at the outset.
It was only due to Sarandeep Singh’s late flourish that India managed to cross the 200-mark.
It obviously doesn’t reflect too well on the youngsters’ capabilities. Sanjay Bangar showed lack of confidence during his brief stay and the sooner Yuvraj Singh comes back, the better. He should be fit for the final and that will do the team no harm at all.
Zaheer has fever
There was, however, bad news on the Zaheer Khan front. The pacer was down with viral fever last night and did not turn up at the ground Friday. The fever has subsided but weakness has set in.
His hamstring, though, has showed a lot of improvement. Manager Gautam Dasgupta had organized for the Bangladesh physio to attend on him in the absence of Andrew Leipus and the sessions have been fruitful.