World Cup Cricket News 16/02/03
Report By Jon Cocks
Indian captain Saurav Ganguly, won the toss and elected to bat on a pitch at Centurion Park that appeared as if it would pose few problems for the batsmen. Three hours later, his assumption might have still seemed reasonable, had India not been bowled out inside 42 overs for a paltry 125 - its lowest team total in all World Cup competition and its third ever lowest against the Aussie Juggernaut.
Three hours after that – including the lunch break - Australia was untroubled to reel in the target for the loss of just Gilchrist on 48, stumped by Dravid in an extravagant attempt to thrash yet another searing onside boundary. Hayden (45*) and Ponting (24*) oversaw the formalities that pushed Australia to second position of the Group A table in just 22.2 overs.
Spinners Brad Hogg and Darren Lehmann extracted some turn, bowling in tandem to extinguish the remnants of a lame Indian batting effort. However, the real stars in Australia’s easy nine-wicket victory were the Australian quicks, led by Man of the match, the lean, mean pace and swing machine - Jason Gillespie (10-2-13-3).
Both sides gambled on strengthening their batting orders. Australia’s long batting order was ultimately able to relax in the pavilion, while India’s much-vaunted upper and middle order was exposed yet again by quality pace bowling – the real difference between the two teams - on a wicket that held little terror.
Ganguly - that most hated by Australia of all opposing captains – began aggressively, turning McGrath from his pads for two from the first ball. Tendulkar looked solid at the other end, as Brett Lee was preferred to Jason Gillespie with the new ball. After four overs, Ganguly tried to force McGrath, thick-edging him perilously close to second slip.
Both the ferocious Lee (9-1-36-3) and the relentless McGrath moved the ball through the altitude-thin morning air of Pretoria away from the right-hander and Lee soon had the breakthrough. Without much footwork, Ganguly (9) slashed hard at an outswinger that clipped the edge of his bat and Gilchrist completed a regulation catch.
Virender Sehwag (4) and Brett Lee had never before been acquainted on the cricket field, but the initial exchange between the two was brief and even then punctuated by Tendulkar hammering McGrath’s fourth over for fourteen runs. For the only over in the match, India was on top.
Lee drew the edge from the gifted Indian youngster for Gilchrist to mop up and India lost its second wicket at 42, presaging a great fightback from the Australian pacemen, as the run-drought began. McGrath recovered from Tendulkar’s treatment to bowl three successive maidens, while Lee conceded just a single from each of his next three overs.
Martyn dropped Dravid (1) at first slip, but it proved not to be costly, as the batsman-keeper chopped Gillespie’s very first ball onto his stumps. Dravid and Tendulkar’s partnership of three absorbed 36 deliveries.
Thereafter, Gillespie was magnificent. Bowling his ten overs unchanged, he ripped the heart from the Indian innings, to build upon the excellent initial work by McGrath and Lee. The demon South Australian settled into a ruthless length – a fraction shorter than usual – and an impeccable line that made even the scratchiest of singles an achievement to be lauded.
He cut Yuvraj Singh (0) in two with a swinging, seaming screamer that passed just over the top of middle stump. The youngster’s stay was short and not sweet, as McGrath (8-3-23-1) trapped him plumb in front shortly afterwards.
India slumped to 4-45, having lost 4-6 in eight overs. Tendulkar was forced to observe the clamps being applied mainly from the non-striker’s end, while the run-rate was systematically halved from nearly a run-a-ball - in the second group of ten overs - by brilliant bowling and razor-sharp fielding, aided and abetted by leaden footwork and inappropriate shot selection.
Worse was to follow, as Symonds (6-0-25-0) bowled a nagging spell, but ran in from the boundary at backward square leg to dive forward and accept a magnificent catch at ground level to dismiss Mohammed Kaif (1), who top edged a hook from Gillespie.
The Indian back was broken, though, when Gillespie fooled Tendulkar (36) with his slower ball, a 113 kph off spinner that drew the Mumbai maestro across his stumps and nailed him in front of middle. India lurched – punchdrunk from piercing pace and the ‘green’ hangover of its New Zealand nightmare – at 6-78 in the 28th over.
Anil Kumble (16*) emerged - twenty overs earlier than he would have liked - to be terrorised by Lee and Dinesh Mongia (13) fended one from the same bowler for Symonds to pull in another screamer, diving to his left.
Harbhajan Singh (28) – audaciously backing to leg - thrashed a four and a six from Lee, but the kind of day that India experienced could best be encapsulated by the short rip-snorter from Lee – early in his innings - that crashed into his helmet grille.
Brad Hogg (4.4-0-16-1) and Darren Lehmann (4-0-7-1) – hurrying through the overs – removed Harbhajan and Zaheer Khan (1) LBW in respective overs and Lehmann’s brilliant throw from cover ran out Srinath (0) to snuff out any further late resistance.
The benign nature of the pitch was underlined by the way Hayden and Gilchrist took 26 from each of Srinath and Zaheer’s opening four overs. The fifty came in the eighth over and the hundred in the eighteenth, as the Australian batsmen sought to repeat the previous month’s first VB Series Final demolition of England in Sydney.
The Indians had gambled on just the two specialist pacemen and the two spinners. As it turned out, the makeshift fifth bowler wasn’t required, as the target fell after the two spinners in tandem were unable to stem the flow. Gilchrist tried a little too hard to flay the slow men, paying ultimately by being stumped by Dravid from Kumble (7-0-24-1).
Harbhajan (7-0-49-0) wasn’t so fortunate. Despite bowling some probing deliveries, he was put into the crowd by Hayden and chipped more than once a little short of the off side field by Gilchrist. Perhaps remembering the Indian tour of 2001, Gilchrist smeared him repeatedly through the off side field and lofted him over mid wicket to rub the salt in.
An LBW appeal against Ponting by Kumble was seen as going down leg side and the Australian victory came shortly afterwards. Ponting drove the leg spinner off the back foot cleanly through covers to the rope and on drove Harbhajan to the midwicket boundary and again to the cover boundary for the winning runs.