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Indians flatter to deceive

Gautam Gambhir’s century goes in vain as India go down fighting by eighteen runs, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.Full scorecard | 10th ODI: Pics

cricket Updated: Feb 25, 2008 02:46 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Hindustan Times

So the tri-series stays alive. Good for the sponsors and organisers but hardly so for the thousands of Indians who painted the Sydney Cricket Ground blue on Sunday. They created a merry atmosphere, beating away drums and singing to spur their team on. Locals said they had not seen a bigger and noisier Indian turnout here ever.

The Australians gave them little to cheer though, starting with seven runs off the first over. It became eight, 10, 12, 14 as the pessimists in the press box started talking of 400 or more, before India pulled back. The Australian total was not insurmountable, but while batting too, India's troubles started from the first over, when Brett Lee fired a fuller one to Sachin Tendulkar after having pushed him back. The top order caved in yet again and the question then was how long, rather than what. The subsequent rally steadied the ship, the late charge gave fans something to cheer, but in the end it looked closer than it actually was.

Tale of contrasting starts

It's neither easy nor prudent to generalise things in cricket, but the difference in starts the teams got turned out to be crucial in the end. Figures tell the story — Australia 92 for one after 10 overs, India 47 for three at the same stage. The Australians were too good on this day.

More than the brisk start Australia got was the aggressive intent of their openers. They were bent on taking the fight to the Indians, even if it meant stepping out against the pacers and hitting over the infield. There was luck involved too, with the ball narrowly missing the stumps on a few occasions. The other thing that helped them was the length India bowled. Just short of driving length was what they were aiming at in the last few games and on Sunday, it was short. And the Australians were pulling, punching past point on the back foot and slashing hard.

IPL guys on song

With the IPL creating a stir in Australia, Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds chose the right time to prove their point. Coming into this game with a tally of 64 from six outings, Ponting was sparkling to start with, steady in the middle, taking it upon himself to anchor the innings. It was a brilliant captain's knock. Symonds had 42 from his six appearances before this one. He has played knocks brutal than this 49-ball 59, but the ferocity of some of his shots on Sunday was fearsome. He packed serious power in the straight hits and some of them could have damaged the palms or fingers of fielders.

Some consolation

The way the slower bowlers pulled things back was the difference between chasing 318 and 350. Looking for consolations ahead of Tuesday's match against Sri Lanka, India's biggest gain was Gautam Gambhir's innings. Robin Uthappa's late burst was also a positive sign and there was some power in his shots. But the frailties at the top are still too much. Asked to list the gains from the defeat, MS Dhoni did that, but only after reminding that it was time for the frontline batsmen to fire. But there isn't much time left either.