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Gone with the Windies!

India lose to West Indies by 3 wickets, face must-win situation in Mohali, reports Kadambari Murali. Scorecard

india Updated: Oct 27, 2006 13:53 IST
Kadambari Murali
Kadambari Murali

In the end, a rush of blood and a flurry of wickets made it tantalizingly close but India have only themselves to blame for tumbling into the worst possible scenario in this Champions Trophy.

On Thursday, as the night wore on and the spectators walked out, India lost to the West Indies by three wickets and set themselves up for a winner-takes-all game against world champions Australia in Mohali on Sunday.

And given the tentative batting displays they have put up ever since their ill-fated tour of the Caribbean this summer - a period covering about 12 games including this one - it would need a dramatically different approach from them if they want to have a hope in hell of beating Australia.

Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid have two days to fashion a miraculous change in their boys, who just did not seem to enjoy playing under pressure, whatever the exhortations of their skipper on the eve of this vital game.

Dravid had advised his players to enjoy the pressure. But in the final analysis, other than the skipper himself (who made a cool 49) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who came back into form with a responsible 51 after a tentative start and combined near the death with Harbhajan Singh to delight India fans for a bit in a rollicking 49-run stand for the seventh wicket in just over six overs - a stand that kept them in the game, everyone else started, stuttered and sputtered out.

Just as an aside, will his knock mean that the Pathan experiment that is no longer an experiment at No 3 finally end?

Anyway, Tendulkar (27) and Yuvraj (29) both looked good for a bit and didn't last, but the defining moment was probably a fabulous bit of fielding from Dwayne Smith that ran out Dravid four balls after Yuvraj became the canny Ian Bradshaw's third wicket. Dhoni had just come in and he flicked Bradshaw to square leg and scampered off.

Dravid responded and found himself woefully short when Smith ran in from square leg, swooped and slammed the ball straight into the single wicket he could see. India 131-5.

Eventually, the Dhoni-Harbhajan stand made the total a fighting one but everything depended on how India bowled up front. The South African pacemen, defending only 219, showed on Tuesday what optimum utilization of the white ball when it is new and hard could do.

India needed Munaf, Pathan, Agarkar and RP Singh to fire collectively. In the end, Munaf hit the deck really well for figures of 8-2-29-1 before leaving the field for an X-Ray of his right wrist (which showed only a bruised bone) but the back-up wasn't enough.

Still, Harbhajan bowled fantastically to keep India in the game, not allowing the batsmen to free their arms by pitching it a little further. His spell of 10-1-27-1 and Sehwag's 1-36 in 10 showed, in retrospect though, that the gamble to keep out Powar had backfired badly.

But India would do well to take a leaf out of the Windies book, especially the thoroughly professional batting display that a team with a reputation for unpredictability put on. Rather ironically, the only top batsman to fail was Brian Lara, who, braving back spasms to play, came in very low down the order and left after one classic boundary to make the endgame interesting.

But Lara, in his third innings as skipper, seems to have changed the ethos of West Indies cricket with Bennett King and instilled a self-belief in his young players that might well be the salvation of West Indies cricket.

They might have had a few scares about leaving it too late but the large number of wickets in hand meant they never really looked like they would lose.

First Published: Oct 26, 2006 00:00 IST