On Gandhi Jayanti, Australia were in no mood for peace, crushing India by 84 runs on Tuesday to take a 1-0 lead in the Future Cup.
India started well while bowling – which they chose after winning the toss – and while batting. They could not make it last. On a surprisingly clear day in this rain-hit city, Australia amassed 306/6 after being 86 for three after 20 overs. India, 53/1 in just eight overs, were bowled out for 222.
Maybe it was the negative effect of Twenty20, and it was seen even on two men not involved in the tournament in South Africa — Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. Both got out going for big hits when set for a hefty scores.
Only captain MS Dhoni, Robin Uthappa and Dravid (before he got out) tested the bowlers. Uthappa hit a blazing 41 (30b, 4x4, 2x6). Dravid made 31 while Dhoni was the last man out for 58. But he gave the crowd tense moments when a full-blooded straight drive off James Hopes hit S Sreesanth, the non-striker and Kochi native, on the head. Sreesanth was shaken but was okay after a while.
India were always up against it after Australia erected an imposing total. But the 60,000 people at the stadium were hopeful as long as captain Dhoni and Dravid were at the crease. They added 49 runs in 65 balls for the fifth wicket before Mitchell Johnson turned into Nadia Comaneci at the mid-wicket fence and ended Dravid's stay. The Indian batsman swept Brad Hogg for almost a certain six. But Johnson, virtually on the boundary rope, did not waver and took a clean, high catch.
Andrew Symonds and Brad Haddin were joint top-scorers for Australia with 87 (though Haddin, the Man of the Match, stayed unbeaten). Matthew Hayden continued the form that made him the top-scorer at the World Twenty20 with a momentum-turning 75 (89 balls, 5x4, 3x6). The fourth wicket partnership between Hayden and Symonds (94 runs in 94 balls) and the fifth-wicket stand between Symonds and Haddin (108 in 94 balls) were the lungs of the Australian innings.
You know what Indian cricket can do with? A professor who can teach middle overs to the bowlers and fielders. Dhoni admitted after the first one-dayer in Bangalore that after 15 overs, in conditions where the white Kookaburra ball doesn't do much, Indian bowlers struggle a bit. That is what happened on Tuesday too.
Like in the abandoned match in Bangalore, they started well. Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth and comeback man Irfan Pathan struck early blows to leave Australia in shreds at 86/3 after 20 overs. But Australia scored 129 runs in the next 20 overs to hew a score just one run shorter than the one they had put up in Bangalore.
Irfan's resurgence, which started in the World Twenty20, continued. He was the most economical of the Indian bowlers and shot down the big beasts – Hayden and Michael Clarke.
Zaheer bowled better than he did in Bangalore too, though he was expensive at the death. But Harbhajan Singh and Ramesh Powar, supposedly in spin-friendly conditions, did not work out well. Neither took a wicket and went for runs.