The giant screen at the Reliance Stadium aired a bank advertisement featuring Rahul Dravid. On the pitch, there was near bankruptcy for India.
Batting first after winning the toss against Australia in the fifth one-day international here, India scored a meagre 148 on a somewhat unpredictable pitch. Australia accomplished the task as easily as Mike Tyson would if he had to fight Woody Allen. Even the ploy of opening the bowling with Harbhajan Singh did not work.
With Thursday’s nine-wicket victory, Australia lead the seven-match series 3-1.
Adam Gilchrist and Mitchell Johnson were the stars for the world champions. Gilchrist took six catches behind the stumps and knocked his 51st ODI fifty. Left-arm seamer Johnson took five for 26 — his first fiver — and won the man-of-the-match award.
Sachin Tendulkar, Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan saved India from complete insolvency while batting. Playing in his 400th one-day international, the 34-year-old Tendulkar scored a fighting yet strokeful 47. Pathan, playing at home, provided support with 26.
A last-wicket stand of 41 between Zaheer Khan (28) and RP Singh gave some flesh to the Indian total. But it wasn’t enough.
India’s bedlam started in the first over, just as spectators were settling at the ground and exchanging kem chhos. Confusion between Sourav Ganguly and partner Tendulkar led to the former’s run out. The next ball, Brett Lee got Dravid leg before. We could debate about his fluctuating batting slot. On Thursday the former captain came in at No. 3 after playing at No. 5 or 4 in the previous matches. But there was no doubt about his dismissal. He was as plumb as Britney Spears is nuts.
Johnson then removed Yuvraj Singh in a way that was unusual and brought the best out of wicketkeeper Gilchrist. The ball rose and moved towards the left-hander. Yuvraj poked at it but got an inside edge. The ball’s path changed. Gilchrist had started to move to his left but changed direction and threw himself to the right to take a one-handed catch with his right palm. It was the first of his six catches. Johnson then swerved it into Robin Uthappa, trapping him leg before. There were expectations off skipper MS Dhoni. But Gilchrist caught him down the leg side off the same bowler. India, 43 for five.
You could tell from the sound of Tendulkar’s shots that he was in touch. Besides, the ball was not coming on to the bat. That meant Tendulkar had to be judicious in stroke choice and execution. Closing in on his 50 and that of the partnership, however, he was felled by a dream delivery from Lee. “Come Sachin, drive,” it said huskily to him, then moved away, taking an edge. After Tendulkar went, Pathan lost the wind in his sails. So did India. The last wicket partnership between Zaheer and RP was heartening, but it only delayed the inevitable.