| Brian Lara, who made 87, in Kuala Lumpur on Monday
Kuala Lumpur: For the umpteenth time in a tri-series, the Indians are on a sticky wicket. The most simple calculation for making Sunday’s final is that they’ve got to beat both the West Indies and Australia in the last two league matches.
May be simple on paper, but quite daunting otherwise.
While the West Indies are best placed to make the DLF Cup’s title-round — captain Brian Lara got carried away somewhat, after beating Australia on Monday, and said his team is already there — the possibility of a three-way tie can’t be ruled out.
After all, if India thrash the West Indies (with a bonus point) and the match against Australia gets abandoned, then all three will each be on nine points. The run rate is then going to come into the picture. At the moment, the Indians are poorly placed.
For now, however, Lara and his men will be uncorking champagne.
After strangling themselves in their first match versus the world champions, they managed to overcome hiccups and won by three wickets. At one time, it seemed dashing opener Chris Gayle and Lara, who was batting beautifully, would themselves complete the job. Yet, both departed and others also followed, but Dwayne Bravo kept cool.
“Oh no... I wasn’t hassled... It was comfortable as we’d been ahead (on the run rate) throughout... Wasn’t tough at all,” Bravo told The Telegraph on returning to the teams’ hotel. He won’t, among other things, forget the six he slammed off Nathan Bracken in a hurry.
Lara top-scored (87), while Gayle contributed 79. Bravo, who is emerging a finisher, stayed unbeaten on 37 when the target (273) was reached in the 48th over. The top two added 151 for the third-wicket, with the bulk of the runs coming off first-change Stuart Clark.
Clark bowled seven no balls and three wides and went for 87 in a mere seven overs. “No, I didn’t think of bringing him back,” confessed stand-in captain Michael Hussey, trying hard not to grin. Only somebody insane would have risked a faster finish by throwing the ball at the New South Welshman one more time.
For a disciplined unit, Australia conceded 33 extras, which included 11 no balls and 16 wides. “Too many sundries... Cost us the match,” moaned the captain-for-the-day. He felt 272 had been a winning score.
One felt sorry for Hussey, for he did everything possible. First, he authored his maiden ODI hundred when the team was struggling. Then, he collaborated a world record 165 for the sixth-wicket with Brad Haddin, who got his first fifty... In the second session, Hussey tried keeping spirits high, but Lara and Gayle were much too hot.
Adjudged MoM for his unbeaten 109, the third highest score by a captain on debut, Hussey remarked he would “reflect” on his innings with pride — for the time being, though, the day had been “very disappointing.” Even regular captain Ricky Ponting’s presence during the drinks breaks made no difference.
The Australians effected seven changes from the XI which played against India on Saturday, but Lara insisted that wasn’t much of a factor. “The Australians missed Ponting and (Glenn) McGrath — with him around you feel as if it’s a 40-over match — but they still had some big names on the park... Kudos to my team...”
According to Hussey, despite the defeat, the “rotation-principle” won’t be done away with.
If Lara paid McGrath such a high compliment, Hussey had very nice things to say of him: “Lara manipulated the ball brilliantly... I tried playing mind games, with field placements, but he was superb.”
Lara, of course, made the point that his team was “very humble” about being in the current position. He added: “We didn’t turn up just to see some matches... Only, say, to watch the final... We’ve come to win... I have faith in my players and their confidence is going to grow (after the win over Australia).”
Gayle, who has been having a smashing tournament, pointed out he had a “ball by ball” approach and would go for it if the ball “landed in the slot.” If he’s a lot more consistent, nowadays, it’s thanks to “long hours” at nets. Pity the bowlers there.
Australia’s New South Wales players, incidentally, wore black armbands to mourn the passing away of a very young fan who was suffering from leukaemia.
HOW THINGS STAND
Matches played 3 Points 9 Net run rate –0.29
Matches played 3 Points 7 Net run rate +0.64
Matches played 2 Points 2 Net run rate –1.45
- India vs West Indies (Wednesday);
- India vs Australia (Friday)