Melbourne, Jan. 10: The tsunami struck yet again. Mercifully, today's damage was limited to hurting Asian reputations. That, too, within the precincts of the MCG which attracted a working-day crowd of over 71,000.
As it was a fortnight ago, the tsunami seemed never-ending: Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Chris Cairns, Stephen Fleming... Even before the last 'wave', the Asia XI had been taken apart by the ICC XI.
Now, not only must India match (actually, better) the over $14.5 million raised by Australians for the tsunami fund, but the Asian players' morale has also to be raised before the second game, favoured to be in Calcutta on February 15.
In a grand gesture, cellular provider 3 gave $1,000 for every run and Toyota contributed $50,000 for each of the seven over-boundaries. Such magnanimity won't be forgotten in a hurry.
Batting after Ponting won the toss, the ICC XI reached a massive 344 for eight. The captain himself led with a brilliant MoM-pocketing 115 (off 102 balls). Additionally, Lara and Cairns got fifties and Fleming smacked 30 from 28 deliveries.
The total, incidentally, is the highest at the MCG and ranks No. 2 among the tallest one-day scores in Australia. History had to be created once Abdul Razzaq went for 50 in five overs and Anil Kumble 73 in 10.
Twelve no-balls and seven wides added to captain Sourav Ganguly's agony.
Beaten (in the mind, at least) even before their reply could begin, Asia XI finished on 232, with Rahul Dravid playing a lone hand ' an unbeaten 75 off 72 deliveries. The challenge, or the lack of it, ended inside 40 overs.
'A closer finish would have been better, but I'm not disappointed. After all, we played for a cause... And, at the end, a handsome cheque was presented to the beneficiary charity (World Vision),' Sourav maintained.
Ponting, for his part, insisted the ODI was 'competitive' despite his team's 112-run win. 'Look, the dressing rooms had great players and they were aware of what they owed to the public... I wouldn't go by the margin,' he said.
Grinning, Ponting added: 'Yes, Glenn McGrath batted at No. 6, but the match was serious...' Coach Steve Waugh and the captain, in fact, had to juggle the batting order. Eventually, Fleming came at No. 7 and Matthew Hayden one slot further down.
Well, all for a cause.
Dravid's effort apart, two Asians had their moments: Wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara got five victims and Zaheer Khan unleashed an excellent first spell ' he got Chris Gayle and should have snared Ponting leg-before first ball.
On the sidelines, by the way, Prime Minister John Howard and Muttiah Muralidharan did meet. 'We shook hands, that's it,' Murali told The Telegraph.
Even that's significant. Quite like Sachin Tendulkar and Steve taking the field as substitutes and drawing deafening cheers.