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Ponting returns to form in Australia victory

cricket Updated: Feb 24, 2008 19:52 IST
Julian Linden
Julian Linden
Reuters
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Ricky Ponting scored a brilliant century and Adam Gilchrist claimed a record-equalling six dismissals as Australia beat India by 18 runs in an absorbing tri-series one-day international on Sunday.

Ponting ended a lean run with the bat to score 124 off 132 balls and guide the world champions to a daunting total of 317 for seven at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

India's run chase began badly when they lost four early wickets but a defiant hundred from Gautam Gambhir and a half-century from Robin Uthappa took them to 299 all out in the final over.

"It was good for us to get some quality time out there and hopefully that will hold us in good stead going into the finals," Ponting told a news conference.

"It is the first time in a while that we have been in that position and the bowlers have been under that sort of pressure and had to deliver."

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said he was proud of the way his team fought back from a seemingly hopeless position.

"It was a very close match and we're happy enough to have made it a close match because we could easily have ended up getting bundled out for 200 runs," Dhoni said.

"I was quite happy with the performance of the bowling unit and I should be happy with the batsmen but still I think the top order can bat better."

India's lower-order batsmen gave the tourists a glimmer of hope of pulling off a remarkable victory but fast bowler Brett Lee (5-58) polished off the tail by taking three wickets in his last four balls.

Gilchrist held five catches and completed a stumping to equal the world record for the most dismissals in a match by a wicketkeeper which he shares with four other players and has achieved on five previous occasions.

Andrew Symonds, who had also been struggling for form during the series, smashed 59 off 49 deliveries while opener Matthew Hayden made 54 as Australia's batsmen went on the rampage.

Ponting had managed only 64 runs in his previous six innings but returned to form in emphatic style.

He belted seven boundaries and a six to register his 26th one-day hundred, overtaking Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya into second place on the all-time list, behind India's Tendulkar (41).

Verbal exchange

Ponting also become only the fifth player to score over 11,000 one-day runs before he threw his wicket away in the penultimate over, caught in the deep by Irfan Pathan.

Symonds struck six fours and two sixes in his innings before he was bowled by a slower ball from Ishant Sharma, triggering a verbal exchange between the pair as he left the field.

India made a terrible start to their reply when Tendulkar was trapped lbw by Lee for two in the first over then they lost Virender Sehwag (17), Rohit Sharma (one) and Yuvraj Singh (five) in the space of 11 balls, all caught by Gilchrist.

Gambhir and Dhoni steadied the innings with a fifth wicket partnership of 98 before the Australians reasserted their control.

Dhoni was caught by Gilchrist for 36 then Gambhir was stumped for 113 after an impressive innings featuring nine fours and a six.

It was his fourth one-day hundred and his second of the series but his dismissal left India with little hope of winning despite some lusty hitting from the tailenders.

Uthappa (51), Pathan (22) and Harbhajan Singh (20) all made valuable contributions but sacrificed their wickets in the frantic final few overs as the required run rate crept above 10 runs an over.

Australia are already assured a place in next month's best-of-three finals and India will join them unless Sri Lanka win the remaining two preliminary games. India play Sri Lanka in Hobart on Tuesday before Australia play them in Melbourne on Friday.