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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ponting & Clarke hammer India after 3 Australian wickets fall cheaply: T4D1

Australia 3/335 (90 ov, Clarke 140*, Ponting 137*) v India: T4/4 D1/5 at Adelaide.

Virender Sehwag, India's standin captain while MS Dhoni serves his one match suspension for his team's slow over rates, for a while made the best of a bad job after losing the toss and having to field, but he lost focus and his team gradually wilted under a 37 degree Adelaide sun and another huge partnership between Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke.

Umesh Yadav began with a wayward over which conceded 12 runs and led to his replacement, not by  Ishant Sharma but by R Ashwin, the offspinner who'd been restored after being omitted in Perth. Ashwin bowled tidily and, after Zaheer Khan had David Warner lbw for 8, bowled Shaun Marsh between bat and pad: an elementary technical deificiency exposed. Ricky Ponting joined Ed Cowan and moved the score along while Cowan played sheet anchor in a 53 run partnership. Just as Cowan looked to be settling in he was well caught by VVS Laxman at short extra cover off Ashwin for a solid, if not place cementing 30.

3/84 became 3/98 at lunch  : still India's session, despite Ponting's assured 43*.

But the rest of the day belonged to Australians. Ponting and Clarke exerted their control and then dominance over the Indian bowlers, fielders and mindset. (The heat may have also had something to do with it: Harsha Bogle on ABC Radio said that 37 degrees in Adelaide seemed much hotter than the more common 37 degrees in India - just where in India he didn't say).

The essentials: Ponting is 137*/254b (13x4), Clarke, who started later, is 140*/188 (1x6, 19 x4). Ponting looked in good nick, playing his signature pull shots and drives with panache, while Clarke was elegantly, and just occasionally riskily, aggressive. Ponting gave no chance, Clarke one which went to hand, a difficult one to Laxman in the slips late in the day. Had Sehwag's fieldplacing been more astute (there was no first slip for much of the day and the boundary was generously patrolled if not always well defended) another chance or two may have been offered.

After lunch the wheels fell off Ashwin, as his good first session 9-3-20-2 turned into 26-4-81-2 at stumps,  and never came back on to Umesh Yadav after his 12 run first over. Zaheer Khan lost zip, Ishant Sharma persevered , while Sehwag bowled some unthreatening overs, including an overlong spell either side of tea.

Australia's day, yes, but the wicket is playing well, so the match isn't over yet. IMO a draw isn't out of the question, but India must regroup mentally if they are not to succumb to the defeatism which  has infected them throughout the series.

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