The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The Great Indian Escape...
- Mitchell Johnson excels, but will still go home with 2 others; Ricky Ponting may rest tomorrow

Kuala Lumpur: If the Indians felt cheated by the Duckworth/Lewis Method on Thursday, they’ve got to thank the elements for managing two points against Australia, on Saturday. The proverbial Great Escape, really, at the Kinrara Oval.

Set a revised target of 170 from 29 overs, after a lengthy rain interruption (second of the day), the Indians were tottering on 35 for five (eight overs) when the DLF Cup match had to be halted once more. A resumption wasn’t possible and, so, the four points got shared.

It’s a mystery why the tournament doesn’t have a reserve day. A bigger mystery, actually, is why it’s being held in September, when rains are as common as traffic snarls in this capital city.

“Yes, we’re definitely relieved... I would’ve been happier playing the full 50 overs, but we can’t control such things,” remarked captain Rahul Dravid. It didn’t help that the asking rate of 4.90, at the start of the innings, soared after the revision.

“There were too many things on our minds... The Duckworth/Lewis had to be looked at, our approach had to change and, because of the rain, conditions were ideal for new ball bowlers... We probably rushed it a bit and there are lessons to learn on playing the new ball,” Dravid added.

He didn’t forget to compliment young left-armer Mitchell Johnson, hailed by the iconic Dennis Lillee as a “once in a generation” bowler.

The 24-year-old Queenslander swung the ball at a handsome pace and got it to seam, too. He got all four wickets which fell to bowlers (Virender Sehwag was run out) and has had a terrific week: In the opener, his victims included Brian Lara.

Despite a sterling show, though, Johnson is leaving for home on Sunday. Michael Cosgrove and Phil Jaques are going to be on the same flight. According to captain Ricky Ponting, this had been decided upon even before the team arrived here.

“I couldn’t have got the decision reversed,” he maintained and saluted Johnson thus: “He has the right attributes... Hits the right areas, has pace and enough swing... Some seam as well...”

Reflecting on the match, Ponting said: “We probably did have it in our bag... It wasn’t an easy wicket to bat on...” He didn’t say so, but the psychological advantage will be with Australia when the teams meet next — on Friday, in the last league engagement.

There’s a chance, by the way, that Ponting may rest himself in Monday’s match versus the West Indies. If that happens, Michael Hussey is going to captain.

Glenn McGrath didn’t pick up a wicket, but bowled great overs. In fact, Sachin Tendulkar got hit on the helmet when he ducked into the first ball from the champion. Later, Dravid revealed he’d asked his young quicks to “learn” from McGrath.

“It’s not always nice facing him, but even after being off cricket for months, he can come back and land the ball exactly where he wants... One has to admire,” Dravid observed. Irfan Pathan, for one, certainly needs to learn a thing or two.

Dravid accepted that Pathan was “struggling” and added “we would like him to get better, but concern would be too strong a word to use... He wasn’t given the new ball as Munaf (Patel) and Ajit (Agarkar) looked best suited to open.”

Earlier, allrounder Shane Watson made the most of being made to open for the first time by top-scoring (79). Michael Clarke got another half-century (64), but the first session’s stand-out performance came from Harbhajan Singh (10-0-24-2). In patches, Munaf was also impressive.

Watson’s success has given Ponting and John Buchanan one more option. For the rest of the world, another headache.

Footnote: The Malaysian Cricket Association is understood to have hired a ‘tantrik’ to ward off rain, but the move hasn’t been working. “The gentleman may say he’s not used to day-night matches!” quipped a source of The Telegraph. According to him, such ‘tantriks’ usually guarantee there won’t be rain. “Hiring them for big occasions is a common feature in these parts.”

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