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Cool warm up for India

If you rock us with pace, we will catch you in a spin. The battle of two breeds of bowlers treated a near-capacity crowd to an exciting contest and kicked off the final countdown to the World Cup. Atreyo Mukhopadhyay reports.

cricket Updated: Feb 14, 2011 09:24 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

If you rock us with pace, we will catch you in a spin. The battle of two breeds of bowlers treated a near-capacity crowd to an exciting contest and kicked off the final countdown to the World Cup.

It was just a warm-up game but India and Australia went hard at each other to delight the Sunday turnout of about 35,000.

Apart from the teams showcasing their traditional strengths, the match confirmed that there is nothing friendly about it when these two countries meet. The Australian fast bowlers peppered India with short balls and when Sreesanth went past the outside edge of Ricky Ponting, he walked up to the Australian captain to hurl a few verbals. That MS Dhoni left the field with a stump in his hand showed that this win meant a lot to him.

Australia scored the early points by reducing India to tatters before a late-order rally gave the hosts something to fight with. It started looking too few after Australia began on a rapid note before, in a final twist, India spun the visitors out of the match.

If India's vulnerability against pace was exploited by Brett Lee & Co, the discomfort of this Australian line-up against spin was exposed by the home team spearheaded by Piyush Chawla. The only surprise choice in the Indian squad, Chawla brought his team back with a second spell of 5-0-9-4. The batsmen tried to charge out against the spinners only to be beaten by flight and spin.

Spin has been the talking point of this World Cup in the build-up and India showed that they have a problem of plenty on that count. Because this was a practice game where teams can use as many bowlers as they want, they used all three specialist spinners. In the tournament proper, Dhoni won't be able to use Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin and Chawla in the same match.

But more than that, it's the form of the batsmen that might make Dhoni a little worried. They looked uncomfortable on a good batting strip against a pace attack that was disciplined and not hostile apart from in the second spell of Brett Lee.

Having composed a tune for one of the World Cup sponsors, Lee wasn't on song in his first spell, but unplayable at times after he came back.

Sree takes on Ponting
Sreesanth was back with his on-field antics. The pacer was involved in a brief altercation with Ricky Ponting as he went up to say a few words to which the Australian skipper responded verbally. There was a loud caught behind appeal the next ball, that was turned down by the umpire even as Sreesanth expressed his frustration while walking back.

Sachin, Zaheer rested
Dhoni said that Sachin Tendulkar was rested for this match because he was carrying a niggle. "We will see and might field him in the next match (against New Zealand in Chennai on Wednesday)."

About Zaheer, Dhoni sounded more serious. "He is our main bowler and we want him fully fit before the first match (against Bangladesh in Dhaka on Saturday)."