Hyderabad: In 1983, Clive Lloyd’s West Indies came to India on a revenge tour after their shock defeat at the hands of Kapil’s Devils in the World Cup final. They accomplished their mission in style.
It seems Ricky Ponting and his men have embarked on this tour with a similar ambition. They are keen to prove that their loss to Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men in the ICC World Twenty20 semi-final was an aberration. Nothing short of a whitewash will satiate the appetite of the Aussies.
With the visitors sitting pretty — a 2-0 lead after three matches (the first ODI in Bangalore saw no result) — Team India’s hopes of lifting the Future Cup cannot be any tougher. That India last beat Australia in an ODI more than three and a half years ago (January 2004 in Brisbane) tells its own tale.
There was no doubt about the Australians’ supremacy in Friday’s 47-run victory. But the Indians can draw some solace from the fact that this wasn’t as one-sided as Kochi. It was more about the authority shown by two batsmen, Andrew Symonds and Yuvraj Singh. While Symonds received a lot of support, Yuvraj was mostly forced to plough a lone furrow.
A target of 291 against the world champions was never going to be easy, especially after the Indians slumped to 13 for three inside five overs.
Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj were understandably slow in the beginning as they sought to repair the damage. Just when the partnership seemed to flourish, Sachin (43 off 71 balls) fell trying to cut Brad Hogg.
But there was no stopping Yuvraj. He repeatedly danced down the track to Hogg. With Dhoni (33 off 37 balls) going well at the other end, it seemed for a while that there still was some hope left.
However, Dhoni’s dismissal in the 36th over, when Brett Lee struck in the first over of a new spell, put it beyond the hosts. Yuvraj still had a few individual battles to be won as he took on Stuart Clark, clobbering him for a six and two boundaries in the same over.
It finally took Mitchell Johnson’s guile and accuracy to end the 115-ball innings that produced 121 runs. Twelve fours and three sixes were ample proof of his dominance. The Aussies, too, couldn’t stop applauding. Ponting congratulated him on the field. That his eighth hundred was for a losing cause possibly prompted the adjudicators to hand give the Man-of-the-Match award to Symonds.
The lower order was just not up to the challenge. Alarmingly, for the second match running, Hogg forced the Indians into submission.
Symonds provided the sparkle in the Australian innings with 89, scoring 66 from his last 35 balls. There were five fours and five sixes in his 67-ball knock.
India seemed to have recovered some ground in the middle overs after Australia had put on a 71-run opening stand. Ponting, back in the side at the expense of the in-form Brad Haddin and leading in his 150th ODI, made a bold decision to bat in overcast conditions. The slow pitch and some wayward bowling made the task of the openers easy.
Hayden continued his good form (60 off 70 balls) and, in the company of Gilchrist, kept the momentum going. As the moisture dried up and the pitch slowed down, the Aussies found it tough to get away the slower bowlers.
Hayden’s knock ended when he chased a wide one from Pathan. The Aussies found it hard to get the bowling away. Ponting struggled to find his rhythm, and Michael Clarke, despite his 59 off 71 balls, never dominated.
Harbhajan Singh was most economical. But the change of ball in the 35th over prompted Dhoni to bring back Irfan Pathan and the run feast resumed.
The allrounder faced the brunt of the attack as Symonds decided to stamp his authority.
The fourth-wicket pair added 123 off 100 balls. Sreesanth picked two wickets off the final two deliveries of the innings, but that didn’t offset his profligacy. He kept a check on his temper, but his waywardness could prompt a rethink on the part of the selectors.