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No Lee-way for Oz as India get confident

The Australia captain Ricky Ponting said Brett Lee and James Hopes would stay out for the second game in succession, having being unable to recover from their elbow and hamstring injuries, respectively, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

cricket Updated: Oct 30, 2009 23:04 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

Apart from grappling with the increasing number of injury scares, the Australians had an unforeseen oddity to contend with when they turned up for practice at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground a day ahead of the third ODI on Friday morning. They found the practice pitches too wet and Ricky Ponting made his displeasure clear in no uncertain terms.

The Australia captain said Brett Lee and James Hopes would stay out for the second game in succession, having being unable to recover from their elbow and hamstring injuries, respectively. If that is what he accepted as part of the game, the other problem left him furious.

“I’m very disappointed actually, to see the practice wickets wet when we came for practice (around 9.30 am). It seems that everybody in the world apart from the groundsmen knew we were going to train in the morning. To turn up and see that the wickets were completely unusable was disappointing. I'm sure when the Indians come (at 2.30 pm), the wickets will be fine. So it’s a bit of a disadvantage for us.” A spokesman of the Australian team said the Indian cricket board was informed about their practice schedule in advance and when contacted, a few officials of the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association remained non-committal, while some of them didn’t take calls. Curator Vijay Bahadur Mishra said he was told by officials that both teams would train in the afternoon and that’s why the practice wickets had been watered.

Even without the watering controversy, the Australians look a troubled lot. Already missing the pace spearhead, an all-rounder and the first-choice wicketkeeper who was also opening the batting, they had Graham Manou flying in on Friday afternoon, which means he hardly got a feel of the conditions before he gets down to business. M.S. Dhoni sensed the moment to be a bit aggressive and said “being unable to practise properly for a day” doesn't amount to a monumental loss. “The momentum is with us. Their bowling is a little depleted and we will concentrate on our own game.”

Dhoni had reason to feel confident after the thumping win in the previous game on Wednesday, but he should also remember that the top-order is yet to come good in this series and that Gautam Gambhir has already had two good innings to go with the superlative one he himself played in Nagpur. The onus to score now is on others, who have not had a great time so far.

The form of Harbhajan Singh should also be worrying because he has not bowled anywhere near what he is capable of and the same can be said of Sachin Tendulkar, who has succumbed to soft dismissals in the first two games. Maybe they are just one game away from producing what they are known for. The wounded Aussies too have a grudge factor and words were exchanged between players in the second game. It seems as if the stage is set for a bitter battle.