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Friday, March 25, 2011

India knock Australia out of CWC despite Ponting century

India 5/261 (47.4 ov, Yuvraj Singh 57*, S Tendulkar 53, G Gambhir 50) beat Australia 6/260 (50ov, R Ponting 104, B Haddin 53) by 5 wickets: CWC2011 quarterfinal #2 at Ahmedabad. India qualify for semi-finals, Australia eliminated from tournament.

A good match which had moments of greatness.

It fluctuated intriguingly until India's maligned middle order batting regrouped to see off the increasingly ragged and defanged Australian attack and win deservedly (and, by ODI standards, quite comfortably).

Ricky Ponting won the toss and predictably chose in to bat in 40deg C+ heat. Brad Haddin and Shane Watson added 40 for the first wicket before Ponting came to the crease. He was watchful, more so than usual, early on and, it wouldn't have surprised me, on the evidence of his last six months' form, if he'd offered a chance.

But he didn't. Haddin went, well caught by Suresh Raina, who with Virat Kohli, lifted India's fielding performance, for 53/62b (1x6, 6x4). But none of the next three stayed long enough with Ponting, who became more assertive as the brittleness of his team's middle order was once again exposed: 3/140 , 4/150, 5/190. The seven Indian bowlers used trundled away with occasional effective bursts (or balls) and the fielding continued keen, despite the heat, and deprived the Australians, whose running between wickets wasn't always as fleetfooted as I've known, of several extra runs.

Fortunately David Hussey with a breezy 38/26b (1x6, 3x4) supported Ponting who went to a century before being caught off a reverse pull (has anyone ever see him play this shot before?) for a pugnacious 104/118b (1x6, 7x4), his first century for 13 months. Apart from the value to the team it reminded people of what a great player he is (some, but not me, would say, was).

The Australian defence of 260 required, among other things, the pace attack to both take wickets and to rein in their prodigal tendencies. But this didn't happen in the required proportions.

After Shane Watson removed Virender Sehwag for 15, Shaun Tait did get Sachin Tendulkar caught behind for an assured 53/68b (7x4) but leaked too many runs, both off the bat and via wides and noballs. Jason Krejza induced a false stroke or two, but the fielders weren't where the ball landed, and he bowled too many poor balls to keep the pressure on.

Yet David Hussey had Virat Kohli caught off a full toss, as India wobbled. Gautam Gambhir was foolishly run out for 50/64b (2x4) while Brett Lee had M S Dhoni well caught by Michael Clarke for 7 (another batting failure for India's captain).

At 5/187 the match was either side's to win. Unlike other occasions in the tournament, this time India regrouped. Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina pulled themselves together after some poor running between the wickets, Australia, with Lee bowling an expensive over, couldn't peg them back and they steered, and then biffed their team to victory without further loss: Yuvraj 57*/65b (8x4), Raina 34/28b (1x6, 2x4). Despite Ponting's century, Yuvraj who'd also taken 2/44 (Haddin and Clarke) from 10 overs, was named, not undeservedly, Player of the Match.

Where to for Australia, and Ricky Ponting, and a few others? Perhaps the selectors should let the dust of defeat in this tournament settle before they decide what steps to take next.


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