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Sachin gives India a 1-0 advantage

cricket Updated: Mar 03, 2008 16:15 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Given all the talk before this match on taking each other on in a ring, it seemed as if the Sydney Cricket ground was ready for a bout. The teams had been sparring verbally before the start of the first final and the packed house on Sunday was indeed witness to some boxing of sorts, where Australia paid for trying to throw a few punches a little too early. They were overtly keen to knock India out and ended up conceding the first round.

There was a distinct overflow of adrenaline in the way Australia started the match. They were trying to jab the Indians out of the ring almost as soon as the umpires called play. The manner in which Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting tried to pull deliveries too close to the body and not all that short showed they were extra eager to get going, before taking stock of things like how the bounce was or whether the ball was doing anything.

They had tried and got away with the same thing against these bitter rivals at the same venue exactly a week ago and had probably forgotten riding that momentum that even though this was Sunday again, it was a different day.

Michael Clarke may have been unlucky to get a wrong decision, but the rest of his teammates didn’t show the necessary discretion to earn any amount of luck. Even after the three quick wickets, their approach didn’t change and that perhaps made the difference between a modest total and a big one.

The legend and the kid
Despite restricting Australia to 239 and getting off to a good start, India were in a spot of bother when Yuvraj Singh fell misreading Brad Hogg’s wrong one. The crowd was right behind the Australians who had seen a window of hope that was looking imaginary till then. The ball wasn’t doing much and the pitch was good for batting, but the flow of adrenaline that had led to their downfall while batting, helped them put some pressure on India at a critical time.

Sachin Tendulkar wasn’t exactly confidence personified to begin with but after nudging the ball here and there during the first 15 overs during which he hit just two fours, had settled into a nice rhythm. Having struck a couple of amazing inside-out fours off Hogg, he was ready to lead the chase and looking for company. Rohit Sharma’s calm and composed half-century was thus all the more valuable because of the time it came in apart from the manner it was crafted.

There were glimpses of class in a few knocks played by him in this competition earlier, but his big test lay in taking responsibility in tough situations. The two straight drives he played off Nathan Bracken stood out for timing, positioning of body and transfer of weight, but the hallmark of this innings apart from a few more classy shots was the unruffled way he played. It’s never easy to match Tendulkar in shot production and that Rohit did that at times without losing his cool
was a big gain for India other than the win.

Suicide & slow poisoning
Tendulkar’s century that was long overdue, Rohit’s heroics and their match-winning partnership will remain the talking points of this match and yet, the way Australia self-destructed will be difficult to forget. Even after losing three quick wickets, they seemed bent on rocking the opposition, come what may, instead of rebuilding. Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds had repaired much of the damage with some incredibly powerful hitting before succumbing to that urge to do something extra.

From 45 for three after 10 overs, they had smashed 66 off the next 10. The power play period was over and the spinners were in operation doing a good containing job. With so many overs still to be played, they needed to cruise on that momentum, but chose to up the ante. The ego clash was very much evident in the way Symonds gave Harbhajan Singh the charge, went ahead with the shot despite being unable to reach where the ball pitched and picked one of the three fielders out in the deep waiting for that shot.

Hayden paid no heed to that dismissal, nor to the situation of his team and as if trying to prove a point against Harbhajan, played an aerial shot despite being aware that there were men in the deep. The batsmen who followed had no choice but to keep their heads down and concentrate on singles and twos against the spinners who were on top.