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India look to book their ticket to VB Series final

India would need a comprehensive victory against Zimbabwe tomorrow to book their place in the finals.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2004 16:55 IST

After quelling a late charge by Zimbabwe at Brisbane on Tuesday, India would be looking to score a comprehensive victory against the Africans at the Adelaide Oval hereon Saturdayto book their place in the triangular series final.

The Indians were in roaring form throughout the Australian tour and ran the world champions close in all the three ODI matches, though they lost two out of the three.

They would be hoping that star batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag would quickly get back to their groove, if they return to play against Zimbabwe in the day-night match.

If fit, Tendulkar, who missed two matches with an ankle injury, and Sehwag, who skipped three games due to a shoulder sprain, would get three matches before thinking about the finals against Australia which begins at Melbourne on Feb 6.

Zimbabwe were bracing themselves for another batting onslaught by the Indians, who with or without top stars, have carried enough punch to even stagger Australia. So Zimbabwe should matter little to them on the morrow.

Though the game is full of surprises and opinions come back to haunt the gun-jumpers, Zimbabwe (1 point) would find it difficult to pick themselves up from the floor against the Indians (on 18 points).

Zimbabwe's confidence has been handed a shattering blow through the injury to opener Mark Vermeulen whose fractured skull has been operated upon but is ruled out of the equation for months.

Vermeulen suffered the horrible injury when a short pitched delivery from young pacer Irfan Pathan glanced off his bat and found its way through the helmet on to his forehead.

Zimbabwe's best chance lies in keeping the Indian total to manageable limits, which seems impossible at the moment against the rampaging tourists, and attempting an inspired chase.

Captain Sourav Ganguly, deputy Rahul Dravid and stylish VVS Laxman have remained a force throughout the summer but added to the list is the emergence of Yuvraj Singh from a mere slogger to a batsman who can build an enormous innings provided he has overs to play with.

The Punjab player has bagged man-of-the-match awards in the last two games and his batting against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground was as scintillating as it comes.

He has not let India suffer from the absence of Tendulkar or Sehwag, both of whom could come into picture tomorrow.

Tendulkar and Sehwag were being rested more as a precaution than any serious injury and could be declared fit before the game starts tomorrow.

Ganguly was very keen that the two played in the game at Sydney but against Zimbabwe he is not inclined to push them into a match-situation.

When one remembers that both Tendulkar and Sehwag had provided century stands in the first two games they played together, the sheer scale of India's batting might acquires a fearsome face.

India has always looked capable of topping 300 on the board and their lowest completed innings in this tri-series was their 255 for six against Zimbabwe at Gabba on Tuesday.

The Indians have also shown tremendous stamina and intent in going through the gruelling schedule with ease, never dropping guard or taking things for granted.

What has been of particular delight to Ganguly is the form of his young fast bowlers, Irfan Pathan and Laxmipathy Balaji, despite the loss to Australia in a rain curtailed match at Sydney last night.

Pathan is a wicket-taking bowler and Balaji relishes bowling to the left-handers, of whom there are any number of batsmen in both the Australian and Zimbabwean ranks.

Left-arm spinner Murali Kartik also looked in good shape and Ajit Agarkar and Anil Kumble are always around, implying the tourists' bowling is no longer lame. The fifth bowler's slot, in the hands of Ganguly and Rohan Gavaskar, is also no longer giving the team sleepless nights.

India's fielding has also come up by leaps and bounds and their catching has been sensational, though Parthiv Patel behind the stumps is beginning to get scowl up on the bowler's face.

Patel has missed a number of stumping chances and he does not look in good shape when standing up to the wicket, either to spinners or to the likes of Sourav Ganguly.

Zimbabwe's batting has been suffering collective failures and the 30s and 40s from their top batsmen is not good enough at this level.

Their fielding alone is world class and they must pluck those half chances and effect those sharp run-outs to keep India in rein.

If not, the placid, perfect batting conditions at the Oval will once again be a stage for the Indians to showcase their talents.

Teams (from):

Zimbabwe: Heath Streak (captain), Visu Sibanda, Grant Flower, Stuart Carlisle, Heath Streak, Tatenda Taibu, Andy Blignaut, Sean Ervine, Raymond Price, Douglas Hondo, Travis Friend, Dion Ebrahim and Stuart Matsikenyeri

India: Sourav Ganguly (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Parthiv Patel, Sourav Ganguly, Rohan Gavaskar, Hemang Badani, Yuvraj Singh, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble, Ajit Agarkar, Laxmipathy Balaji, Irfan Pathan and Murali Kartik.

First Published: Jan 23, 2004 12:27 IST