Category Archives: Hayden

Team India for 5th ODI @ Vadodhra

India is often loathe to change a winning combination unless real (or make-believe) injury forces their hand. However, I have a feeling that a change or two may be necessary to the India team that beat Australia in Chandigarh.

Option-1: Rest Zaheer Khan for Sreesanth

Despite a tight last over in the Chandigarh match, Zaheer Khan has not been bowling as sharply as he can. Even though we should acknowledge that he is bowling at Hayden and Gilchrist — both champion players — he has looked off-colour. Moreover, with Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Irfan Pathan the bowling has a “sameness” look to it. With that in mind, it may not be a bad idea to bring in Sreesanth for Zaheer Khan.

Option-2: Rest Dravid for Badrinath or Rohit Sharma

The Vadodhra pitch is known to be a turner. An additional off-spinner in the form of Badrinath, would be a useful option to go with. Of Rohit Sharma and Bardrinath, I’d go for the latter because his off-spin is generally quite sound — perhaps more sound than the options Rohit Sharma provides with his bowling. This option may gain more credibility in light of the fact that Dravid hasn’t really looked in great touch in this series thus far.

Option-3: Combine option-1 and option-2

This would be my preferred team for this all-important match. Apart from strenghthening the bowling, this option would also strengthen the fielding! However, I do not believe Team India will go with this. It is most likely that the same winning-team will play this match too. But if I had my druthers I’d go with the following team:

Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain), Robin Uthappa, S. Badrinath, MS Dhoni (captain), Irfan Pathan, Murali Kartik, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, RP Singh.

Substitutes: Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Dravid, Zaheer Khan.

— Mohan

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India Vs Australia, 4th ODI, Chandigarh, 8 Oct 2007

This was a terrific victory for India. The host has now kept the series alive with this backs-to-the-wall win.

India Innings Start
India won the toss and for the first time in this series, batted first. This was a high-risk strategy because of the early-start, the cloud-cover and a somewhat shaky batting lineup. But full marks to Dhoni for having made the call to bat first. The strategy appeared to be to hold down one end and take more risks at the other. And the start typified this strategy! The score at the end of the first 5 overs was 13-0. Off these, 6 were from extras! There was a lot of movement off the seam for Bracken and Lee. Sachin Tendulkar was lucky to be there. He survived an LBW shout as well as a caught behind appeal. The bowlers bowled with pace and pitched it up, allowing the ball to do its thing. But by and large, the doctor ordered stay-on-at-the-crease and that’s what the Indian openers did, in the hope that the pitch would ease up. While Sourav Ganguly opened up a bit after this first lot of 5 overs, Tendulkar continued to play well within himself and also, quite unusually, with minimal confidence. The 6th over produced two 4s for Ganguly. It seemed like the southpaw had a measure of the swing and bounce. In the next over off Lee though, as if to counter the positive intent shown by Ganguly, Tendulkar had another huge LBW appeal turned down. For a man who had had a horrible time of it of late with umpires, Tendulkar was almost on his 4th innings by now! He had to make the best of the chances he had been given. In the midst all of this Tendulkar drama, Ganguly was playing cleverly. Tendulkar had made 6 runs off 33 balls at one stage! India were 47-0 at the end of 12 overs, a score that had 13 wides in it already! When India won the toss, they’d have set a target of 60-0 off 15 overs. At the end of 15 overs, India had made 68-0 off and Tendulkar had made 18 off 47 balls. and Ganguly had made 36 off 43.

Australia did not take their 3rd Power Play immediately; one sensed that they wanted a wicket. But they didn’t get it from 4 overs of spin and took the 3rd PowerPlay in the 20th over. Then, just when things were looking easy for India, against the run of play, Ganguly departed, caught behind off Hopes for 41 off the last ball of the 20th over. India were 91-1 at the end of the 20th over of which 23 were extras! This was a very un-Australian show from the point of view of sundries.

In a surprise move, Yuvraj Singh, the local boy walked in at #3. Perhaps the view was that Yuvraj Singh was the man in form and needed a longer stint at the crease, especially since the foundation was solid. Moreover, it would have continued the left-right contribution. In the main, I think the strategy from the Indians was the hold one end down while they were prepared to take more risks at the other end. Thus, if Tendulkar had got out, perhaps we would have seen Rahul Dravid.

At the end of the 25th over India were 112-1, a scoring rate of just under 4.5; a good platform for India to build from. But in the next period of 5 overs, Brad Hogg and Andrew Symonds bowled tightly and kept the Indian batsmen in check such that, at the end of the 30th, India were 134-1. At this stage, Yuvraj Singh had made 16 off 32 balls and Tendulkar had 58 off 90. Soon after, Tendulkar had his 50 off 91 balls and India were 172-1 at the end of 35 overs. They were almost at 5 runs an over.

But all it took was a few tight overs and Yuvraj Singh, in a rush off blood, spooned a catch to Ponting at cover off Hopes to depart for a well-made 39 off 55 balls. M. S. Dhoni promoted himself up the order. Again, my assumption is that, if Tendulkar had got out we’d have seen Dravid there to hold up one end. India were 202-2 from 40 overs.

Sledge-match
The previous ODI had seen Australia and India reign in the clowns. However, the 40th over saw 15 runs and a sledge-match between Tendulkar and Symonds! Now, I’ve been watching Indian cricket for a long time now and this is perhaps the first time (after Tendulkar sledged Glen McGrath in Kenya) that Tendulkar was involved in a public slang-match. And it took one mad clown to get him involved. And so, where’s that “Spirit of Cricket” and where’s that “respect” that Shaun Tait talked about?

End of the Indian innings
After a few good overs, once again against the run of play, Tendulkar was run out for 79 off 119 balls. He paddle-swept the ball to Brett Lee at short-fineleg and set off for a single as a loud appeal emanated. He was sent back by M. S. Dhoni but couldn’t beat a direct throw from Brett Lee. And like the previous times, whenever India looked to get ahead, the Aussies pulled it back with some good bowling or a wicket. At the end of 45 India were 235-3 meaning India only got 33 runs in that 5-over block from over 40 to over 45. Thanks to some hard hitting by Uthappa and Dhoni in the end, India reached a score of 292. The last 5 overs had yielded 57 runs. This was a strong result that was based on a solid foundation, absolute lack of panic at any stage and largesse from the Australians in the form of 39 extras — of which 31 were wides!

Record number of extras
If I am not mistaken, 39 extras is one run short of a record for the Australians. Their previous highest tally appears to be the 40 that they gave against Sri Lanka at Sydney in 2003. The huge number of wides they gave away in this match, which fell short of an Australian record by one run, was in part due to a bad day at the office for Adam Gilchrist!

Australia commence brilliantly
In their chase, the Australians showed their astuteness by keeping the singles going constantly. And they showed power and control too. While India waited until the last ball of their 50th over to hit their first and only six of their innings, Australia hit a six in the 4th over itself. And another on in the 5th over. While India had 13-0 off its first 5 overs, Australia had 37-0. Zaheer Khan and R. P. Singh had started awfully and the Australian openers had started brilliantly. But off the first ball of the next set of 5 overs, Gilchrist tried one pull down leg too many and his wicket was purchased — caught on the deep square leg boundary by Zaheer Khan off R. P. Singh for 18 off 17 balls.

But the start was brisk and brilliant. India were 68-0 off 15 overs. Australia were 75-1 off 10 overs! Sixteen runs had been scored off the 10th over by R. P. Singh to Ponting who had been struggling up until then. Even counting for the additional wicket that India had got by this stage, this was an amazing start by Austrlia. Both the Indian opening bowlers sprayed the ball around like millionaires.

At the end of the 10th over, India went into the 2nd PowerPlay with 2 players outside the ring. They should have, one felt, gone with spin for an over or two to slow things down. But Dhoni pressed on with pace and the 2nd PowerPlay. Indeed in the 11th over, one could hear Dhoni say “thoda dheere daalna” (“slow things down a bit”) to Irfan Pathan. This made sense as R. P. Singh and Zaheer Khan had been banging things in a bit too much.

India missed a great opportunity of running out Hayden in the 15th over. There seemd to be a single to be had off almost every ball! This was certainly a highlight of the Australian batting. What was particularly disappointing was the fielding by almost all bowlers off their own bowling!

At the end of the 15th over, Australia were 106-1. In contrast, India were 91-1 at the end of the 20th. In other words, by this stage, Australia was about 6-7 overs ahead and were making an absolute mockery of the target!

Ponting brings the game into disrepute?
Ponting was out thanks to a brilliant bit of stumping by Dhoni off Pathan. Pontings’ befuddled look at square-leg, as umpire Shastri brought the 3rd umpire in, suggested a mistrust of umpire Shastri who referred the decision to 3rd umpire Pratapkumar. But, as commentators say often, when they are in cliche-overdrive, “the line belongs to the umpire” and Pontings’ foot was on the line.

The question that must be asked is whether or not Ponting brought the game into disrepute through his on-field and off-field antics? Will Chris Broad bring him to task or will Ponting receive yet another note of congratulations from the Match Referee?

Australia march on towards victory
With that dismissal, the momentum had shifted slightly. A few tight overs would bring things back. And that’s what Harbhajan bowled in the 20th over. Australia had 124-2 at the end of the 20th. India were India were 112-1 off 25 overs! Again, Australia appeared to be about 6 overs ahead at this stage. Despite Michael Clarke’s departure, the runs kept flowing and by the 25th over, Australia had reached 150. The Australians were going at 6 an over! India needed Murali Kartik to bowl well; to bowl tight and pick up a wicket or two. However, in his initial overs, Murali Kartik didn’t spin the ball much and speared the ball in quite regularly. The one time he flighted the ball, Symonds took him for 6!

At this stage, Australia had a let off when Symonds was given not out — caught behind off Harbhajan Singh. That would have changed the complexion of the game dramatically. However, that was not to be and at the end of 30 overs Australia was 174-3. Murali Kartik was bowling some decent and some ordinary stuff and R. P. Singh had started his 2nd spell with three wides — this typified his day really.

Hayden’s brain explosion
So after just one over, Irfan Pathan was back! India needed some tight overs and maybe even a wicket! A tight over from Pathan indeed followed. This perhaps resulted in Hayden having to take a few risks off Murali Kartik, who bowled brilliantly. He was helped by Hayden having a brain explosion to hole out to Zaheer Khan in the deep. Hayden had made a powerful 92 runs off 92 balls. And Murali Kartik was starting to bowl well. What was required was some tight stuff at the other end. But R. P. Singh continued to spray it. His wide-count kept increasing. Australia had made 196-4 off 35. At the same stage, India were 172-1 at the end of 35 overs. Perhaps Australia were about 4 overs ahead.

The next 5 overs saw Kartik improving. He was bowling with a better rhythm particularly since Hodge was at the crease. At the end of 40, Australia were 222-4. India were 202 at this stage! So Australia were probably still 4 overs ahead at this stage. But India still had 2 R. P. Singh overs to bowl!

India crawl back into the game
Dhoni then stumped Hodge brilliantly off a Harbhajan wide down legside. India were probably better off with Hodge there! He was scratching around and kept India in the game! But that was a brilliant stumping by Dhoni — yet again! He is having a terrific series as a ‘keeper and captain.

R. P. Singh came on for the 45th over. India needed him to bowl well with Australia needing 42 runs from 6 overs. He gave just 4 runs off that over and this would have given Dhoni confidence to bowl him out from there on in. In his very next over, he bowled Symonds off a beauty. Australia needed 24 from 19 balls. Perhaps it was all a bit too late? Brad Hogg kept India in the game by charging down the wicket off the first ball he placed only to be run out — again by R. P. Singh!

I’d have thought that Zaheer Khan should have bowled the 48th over. But Murali Kartik bowled the 48th, his 10th over. He finished his spell well. He conceded only 2 runs off his last over and had given 48 runs and had taken 1 wicket in his spell. Australia needed 22 runs off 2 overs.

R. P. Singh bowled the 49th over; the last of his full quota of overs. He gave 6 runs off his last over and Australia needed 16 runs off the last over to be bowled by Zaheer Khan. For perhaps the first time in the match, Australia was under pressure! And they didn’t redeem themselves at all.

The series was brought alive.

Uphill task for India
India won and somehow Australia had gone on “to do an India”: they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory! I watched the entire game and it wasn’t until the last over that I thought India could win it — such was Australia’s dominance of the game. They controlled the game brilliantly in both bowling as well as batting. They never let India get away with the bat and were always — apart from the last over or two — in the drivers’ seat when batting.

So, if Indian fans start jumping up and down scenting an Indian comeback in this series, I’d like to submit a reminder that there is a lot of work to do.

— Mohan

Harbhajan retorts at ‘vulgar’ Australians

And now Harbhajan Singh, while commenting on his bat-pointing-antics after he got out stumped to Michael Clarke in the Kochi ODI, calls the Australian cricketers “vulgar”. In a telling comment on their game, he said, “They say they play the game in the right spirit, but they don’t in reality. There is nothing gentlemanly about the way they play.

This comment does not come as as surprise to me. It is something most cricket fans know. But I do believe the time has come for Cricket Australia to tear up that “Spirt of Cricket” document that all Australian team players signed up to. I sincerely believe that some words written in a portable loo on toilet paper would have more commitement to it from the players than that “Spirt of Cricket” eyewash!

Harbhajan Singh goes on to say: “I don’t have any problem with chitchat on the field, so long as it is about the game. But when it is very personal and vulgar, that is not on. They think you cannot fight back and they do not like it when you do.

And therein lies Andrew Symonds’ — and perhaps even the Australian teams’ — problem, in my view. Symonds and the Australian cricket team must think that an Australian passport and a baggy-green are the only two possessions that give anyone the automatic right of passage for chit-chat on the field.

In talking about the run-out incident Andrew Symonds, that veritable Zen Master of good behaviour pontificates sanctimoniously from a pedestal placed at 30,000 ft above sea-level, “I didn’t see the need for him to be at Brad [Haddin] like [Sreesanth] was. When I go to another sport I like to see confrontation, I’ll admit that, but you don’t want to see ugly confrontation and you don’t want to see confrontation that degrades your sport.

I saw that interaction and that was not in the least bit ugly as confrontations go. What Brad Hogg did to Gautam Gambhir off the very first over of the Indian innings was ugly — Symonds was at gully! What Matt Hayden said to Harbhajan Singh just a ball before the spinner got out was ugly. Symonds was at point. What Michael Clarke said by way of a send-off to Harbhajan Singh — any lip-reader on probation could make out what was said — was ugly. Symonds laughed and giggled like a 5-year-old who had heard his very first fart-joke!

In my view Symonds and Sreesanth should both check into the same shrink and get their heads cleared. They should take Matt Prior and Andre Nel with them — taking due care to book Matt Prior for an extended buy-one-stint-and-get-five-free-stints period of stay!

The Harbhajan Singh article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age goes on to say, in the words of the Indian spinner, “Ask any team. They will tell you that when [the Australians] get beaten, they react badly. In this game, you win some and you lose some, but regardless of the result, there is no excuse for their kind of behaviour.

Oh well. If the cricket-contest needed any more chillie and spice, it has just been delivered a generous dose of it.

Shaun Tait has also come out against Sreesanth, asking for some respect towards Andrew Symonds from the young Indian pacer! The usual customary, bland and meaningless threats were made about Sreesanth getting his skull cracked when he visits Australia in the summer! Tait said, “But I think he got a bit carried away with that wicket of Symonds. There’s got to be some respect there.

Hmmmm! Let’s see. Would the same sort of respect that Brad Williams showed to Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar do Tait? Or perhaps Tait prefers to go blind when the Aussies continue to carry-on in ugly way?

I just do not see the need for artificial “lines in the sand” and “respect”. Once you throw a stone in an open-drain and once you determine that that is kosher, for heavens’ sake acquire the maturity to accept the random splash back that comes with it. In other words, if you sledge be mature enough to accept crap in return!

Period.

— Mohan

India Vs Australia 2nd ODI, Kochi, Tuesday 2 October

This was a terrific win for Australia on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday — a national holiday in India. After the rained out 1st ODI, and after watching endless celebrations of India’s T20 win, this was a wonderful performance by the Aussies — make no mistake about that. Australia started badly but slowly constructed their innings and wrenched the match away from India. Along the way a few questions were asked of the India team.

The three key issues for me were; (a) lack of intensity, agility, direction and purpose shown by the Indian team in batting, fielding and bowling, (b) bowling in the middle overs where Yuvraj Singh bowled probably as well as the other two Indian spinners in the team, (c) inability of the Indians to make best use of the conditions — and indeed, in the words of Rameez Raja, Australia looked like they were the ‘home team’.

There were many things about the match to write about. I shall make my observations in no particular order:

The Mach Referee will have a busy day?

I don’t think so. Sreesanth ought to be fined, in my view, for appealing for a runout off a dead ball — a situation that was smartly diffused by M. S. Dhoni. It is likely that Sreesanth and Harbhajan may be fined for bad behaviour. However, If he fines Sreesanth for bad behaviour, he will need to fine Michael Clarke, Brad Hogg, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Mathew Hayden for bad behaviour too; something that Chris Broad hasn’t been too keen to do. So, I believe Broad may just collect his pay cheque and move on to the next destination!

Dhoni’s Captaincy

Dhoni’s captaincy was generally good. He was always trying something different. For example, in bringing back Pathan for 32nd over when things weren’t going well for India. He was always in control even when things weren’t really going India’s way. He didn’t appear unnecessarily flustered or charged. He is also a ‘keeper that does not believe in needless chirping behind the wickets. In a generation where almost every ‘keeper in world cricket — Matt Prior, Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara, Kamran Akmal, Mark Boucher — keep up a continuous barrage of crap from behind the stumps, Dhoni sticks out like a sore thumb. And his stumping to get rid of Clarke off a legside wide was straight from the top-drawer.

Did Michael Clarke bring the game into disrepute?

Talking of that dismissal of Michael Clarke, I am stunned at the number of teams that are requesting replays these days! Michale Clarke was given out stumped by the leg-umpire Suresh Shastri. He walked away but then waited at the boundary rope — waiting for a decision-reversal! Clarke was asked to stay on inside the ground by his team mates! Shastri, under pressure, asked for a TV review after he had already given the batsman out! This isn’t a good trend. And by asking for a replay — either directly or implicitly — Is this a punishable offence? After all, if a fielder asks the umpire for a TV referral on a run out the fielder would be yanked in front of the match referee and fined. This was a clear breach/questioning of the umpires’ decision.

The Indian bowling

Irfan Pathan bowled brilliantly I thought. His ball to get Hayden out was a beauty. My view is that he is back to his best. The pace was there as well as the accuracy. More importantly, he was probably the best of the three pace bowlers on view in terms of adjusting his length and pace to the pitch.

There is, one senses, definitely a plan to use Yuvraj a bit in the middle and death-overs. Not a bad Jayasuriya-like ploy. Long overdue too.

But my main problem in the last two ODIs is around the selection of Ramesh Powar in the team. He is a good bowler, no doubt. But if he is chosen for bowling just 5-6 overs a game, we are better off with a bowling allrounder like Joginder Sharma or even S. Badrinath in my view. Why? Even Rohit Sharma will give us 4-5 overs of off-spin and you get a terrific batsman for free! In yesterdays’ match Ramesh Powar batted below Harbhajan Singh in the batting order! For two games running, Powar hasn’t completed his bowling complement of 10 overs. It may be that Ramesh Powar is a better bowler than Harbhajan Singh. But his captain doesn’t seem to think so — judging by the fact that Harbhajan Singh completed his complement of 10 overs in yesterdays’ game!

The other major question that wasn’t answered by the Indians was around the respective spinners of the two teams. While Harbhajan Singh and Ramesh Powar didn’t do too much with the ball, we saw Brad Hogg and Michael Clarke ask searching questions with their spin bowling. This doesn’t bode well for India in my view.

After the initial assistance that the conditions offered the seam bowlers, the bowlers ought to have realised the slowness of the pitch. Instead of slowing down the ball, the Indians banged it short or fired it in. The Australians, on the other hand used the pitch very well and bowlers like Stuart Clark and James Hopes did well to bowl cross seam and split-finger stuff. Hopes and Clark bowled straight and without offering any width. Very clever stuff. One would have thought that the India bowlers would have used the slow Indian pitch conditions better!

Sreesanth

In the midst of a rather ordinary spell in which he exchanged words with both Hayden as well as Symonds, Sreesanth had what could best be described as terrible and most unsporting runout appeal off a dead ball. Dhoni’s approach to diffuse the situation suggested his awareness, sensitivity, smart thinking and cool leadership skills — he immediately calmed things down.

Sreesanth should have a look at himself. Before the match he talked of getting a 5-fer on his home turf. He put pressure on himself. Now that’s fine if you can back it up with performances! The young lads’ aggression is not a problem. At least for me, that’s not a problem. We need more of his tribe in the team in my view! If Sreesanth can get under the skins of an opposition like Australia — and he has — and if he can continue to perform, then that would be fine!

That is, if ‘trash talk’ is indeed where he derives his energy from and if he is able to divorce his body-language aggression from his bowling aggression then that would be fine — although I do not personally like it. But the real job that Sreesanth has to do is to bowl well. And he is not… He is wayward and a bit lost for ideas on ‘what to do next’. Sreesanth needs to learn from Zaheer Khan who has a vast repertoire but appears acutely aware of what is expected of him! Indeed Sreesanth needs to support Zaheer Khan and not trot off on a tangent that he has marked out on his own. This was typified by what would have been the last ball of the match. After having bowled 5 excellent balls, he sprayed the last ball wide for 4 wides. He could do well to sharpen his focus on his game. His aggression would be ok, in my book, if and only if he has a sharpness of match-focus to go with it.

I don’t mind Sreesanth giving lip to the Aussies. If a two-bit goose like Brad Hogg can give lip to Gambhir, Dravid and Tendulkar almost from the moment the first ball was bowled, so can anyone in the Indian team really! But really, lip should be backed by performance…

The Batting

For Australia, Andrew Symonds batted very well, but the real champion in the batting — a somewhat underrated player in my view — was Brad Haddin. He played a sensational game to take the Aussies past the 300 mark. Although they were pegged back by the loss of two early wickets, Australia recovered really well to post a commanding and, as it turned out, a match-winning total.

When India batted, it seemed like the old ills were back. The players just didn’t seem keen to take the singles and rotate the strike. Sachin Tendulkar should have given much more of the strike to Robin Uthappa who was batting like a dream. Instead he tried to hit out like Uthappa was. Having said that, it took clever slower balls that induced false strokes from both Sachin Tendulkar as well as Yuvraj Singh. And both dismissals were brought about through excellent catches from Andrew Symonds and Matt Hayden respectively.

Way forward

This loss would have put a stop to the T20 celebrations and brought the team down with a thud. In that sense, it was a good thing for India provided lessons are learned. And to learn those lessons, the team only needs to look back to the events that happened 10 days back! Success in the T20 Championship came on the back of energetic fielding, electric running-between-wickets, sharp-and-focussed bowling, a never-say-die attitude, courageous batting and fear-free cricket. Unelss the team is able to rediscover those facets in their game — or acquire the personnel that will do it for them — this series is going to be a thrashing for the team.

— Mohan

World Twenty20 Team

Adam Mountford from the BBC picks his World Twenty20 team. The twelve-member-team has in it two Indians (Yuvraj Singh and M. S. Dhoni). The team also includes two Australians (Matthew Hatden, Stuart Clark), one West Indian (Chris Gayle), 4 Pakistani players (Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik, Umar Gul), one Kiwi (Daniel Vettori), one South African (Morne Morkel) and one Englishman (Kevin Pietersen).

Not only is Dhoni the ‘keeper, he is also captain of the World Team that’s been chosen by Mountford who says: “Not only is he a real entertainer, but who better to captain a T20 Dream Team than a real swashbuckling hero. Ian Chappell said on TMS that a team takes on the personality of its captain, and thinks India are playing without fear because of the character of Dhoni. That is how I want this super team to play.

1. Matthew Hayden
2. Chris Gayle
3. Yuvraj Singh
4. Shahid Afridi
5. Shoaib Malik
6. Misbah-ul-Haq
7. M. S. Dhoni (captain and wicket-keeper)
8. Morne Morkel
9. Daniel Vettori
10. Umar Gul
11. Stuart Clark
12. Kevin Pietersen

This is not a bad team at all in my view and has the right people in it.

Comments/views?

— Mohan

Ps: How come Ajit Agarkar and Matt Prior do not rate a mention? 🙂

It’s an India Pakistan Final!

What a great game it turned out to be….In my earlier post, I had written that the Aussies were the favourites to win the game. Maybe some one forgot to tell that to the Indian team…or if they did, they didn’t believe it.

India did start a bit tentatively though- the very first ball was nicked by Gambhir for the ball to fall short of Gilchrist. India had made just 36 by the end of the 6th over with Sehwag back in the dressing room. By the end of the 8th over, India had lost both openers and the score was just 41. Enter Yuvraj Singh – and then the game turned on its head. The very second ball he faced was dispatched off for a six and that was just the beginning. Yuvraj made 70 of 30 balls and dominated the bowling – it included 5 sixes and 5 fours! The 3rd wicket partnership between Uthappa and Yuvraj yielded 84 runs in 6.3 overs which ended up being the backbone of the Indian innings. Uthappa scored 34 (of 28) and Dhoni chipped in with 36 (of 18).  India finished the game on 188.

189 was a still very gettable target and the Aussie openers have been playing well throughout the tournament. India needed a couple of good performances from its bowlers and that’s what they got. RP Singh got the new ball to bowl first as reward for bowling well in the tournament, but it was Sreesanth’s performance that kept India in the game. He started badly with a four of his very first ball but took the wicket of Gilchrist in his first spell and even bowled a maiden. He was completely fired up and bowled like the Sreesanth we have come to know and admire. And when Hayden and Symonds were taking the game away from India, he came back to take the all important wicket of Hayden. Hayden made 62 (of 47 balls) and his innings included 4 sixes and 4 fours. When Hayden departed, Australia needed 55 of 32 balls and they still looked on target to win with 2 more overs left from India’s fifth bowling option (which had gone for 38 in the first two)

Pathan then took out Symonds and when he was out, Australia needed another 33 of 20 balls with 6 wickets remaining. Bhajji was the other bowler who was outstanding for India and when he took the wicket of Clarke in his last over with a yorker (what a huge wicket that was?), Australia needed 27 from 12 balls. RP Singh bowled one of the best overs under pressure conceding just 5 runs and it then came down to  22 runs in the last over with Hussey on strike.

Dhoni juggled his bowlers well and captained the side brilliantly, but when Joginder Sharma, who had gone for 31 runs in his two overs, came back to bowl the last over there were a few nervous moments. He started with two dot balls and then took a wicket. The match was finally sealed in favour of India.

Playing at Durban meant that it was like playing in India and Harsha Bhogle commented that he hadn’t seen so many Indian flags in a match even in India! There was even a sign in the crowd that said “India has home advantage”.

India now play Pakistan in the final. The tournament organizers couldn’t have asked for a better finale to the tournament. It is a great comeback for two teams that were knocked out of the World cup in the preliminary round just a few months ago.

-Mahesh-