Gambhir’s night out

Gautam Gambhir... architect of India’s triumph.-AP

Gautam Gambhir, who missed much of the action over the past two weeks with a strained groin, was up and running even as the Aussies ran out of ideas. S. Dinakar reports.

The Brabourne Stadium was a blaze of colour. There were smiles and celebrations. Chants of ‘India, India’ filled the air. The men banging the drums increased the intensity of their effort. Twenty20 was the rhythm on the night of October 20.

The Indians lapped the ground in a car won by Gautam Gambhir. The Man of the Match had smoked a 52-ball 63 on the chase. And India had romped home by seven wickets.

Yet, it was a sad night. A section of the crowd had booed and jeered every action of Andrew Symonds on the field. These few spectators marred an otherwise glorious night.

Spinners Harbhajan Singh and Murali Kartik were on the ball and Irfan Pathan was straight and steady as India restricted Australia to 166 for five. The total proved inadequate.

The Aussies had blundered by omitting Brad Hogg. With his ability to turn the ball both ways, this fizzy left-arm Chinaman bowler had been an impact cricketer in the ODI series. With the other in-form bowler Mitchell Johnson down with a mild bout of flu, Hogg’s omission was baffling.

The very format of the game blunts the Aussie attack which is essentially aggressive and wicket-taking in nature. And 20 overs is too less a period to bowls sides out or peg them back with a bucket of wickets. The Aussies have struggled with field placements as well.

The answer for the Aussies could lie in denying the batsmen pace and relying more on spin, at least in the sub-continental conditions. For India, left-arm spinner Kartik had spun the ball away while Harbhajan bowled a yorker length and varied his pace.

Australia is missing someone like Ian Harvey with his full length, yorkers and change of pace in this format. In the one-off game in Mumbai, the Indian batsmen were provided with both width and pace.

Gambhir was not complaining. He sizzled with wristy blows. He cut and pulled, walked down the track to convert the length.

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni receives the trophy after the team’s victory.-PTI

A couple of lofted straight hits had the crowd roaring. The man who missed much of the action over the past two weeks with a strained groin was up and running even as the Aussies ran out of ideas. This was Gambhir’s night out.

Virender Sehwag edged a Brett Lee outswinger but the impressive Robin Uthappa innovated. Uthappa cover-drove and pulled Lee, reverse swept Symonds and the momentum had shifted. Part-time left-arm spinner Michael Clarke sent down a terrific first over to Uthappa — he consumed the right-hander with a delivery that spun away — but ran into a roadblock in the form of a left-handed pair in Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh.

Left-handers in the middle-order can be crucial to a team’s success, particularly if there is some assistance for the left-arm spinners from the pitch. Clarke attempted switching over the wicket but could not make the adjustment.

Then, Yuvraj assumed centrestage, slog-sweeping Clarke for a six, blasting Stuart Clark for two sixes, one of them being a brutal wristy hit from close to his face. At the other end, Gambhir motored along.

Gambhir eventually miscued a pull off paceman Ben Hilfenhaus who did create an impression with his skiddish pace and lift. Then, skipper M. S. Dhoni gave the finishing touches to a thumping win for the World champion.

Earlier, Australian captain Ricky Ponting was dominant after winning the toss. He timed the ball through the gaps, using the pace of the ball. He also gave the ball the occasional wallop. This was a Twenty20 game, but the manner in which Ponting used his feet and the crease was a lesson to the students of the game.

However, a mix-up with Andrew Symonds at a crucial stage — Symonds had set off for a non-existent run — harmed Australia’s chances.

This was also a night when the Aussie cricket was tardy. There were misfields, no-balls, overthrows. The bowling was often erratic. The Indians cashed in.

THE SCORES

Twenty20, Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, October 20. India won by seven wkts.

Australia: A. Gilchrist b R. P. Singh 12; M. Hayden b Harbhajan 17; R. Ponting b Pathan 76; A. Symonds (run out) 20; B. Hodge b Pathan 2; M. Clarke (not out) 25; B. Haddin (not out) 5; Extras (lb-2, w-7) 9; Total (for five wkts., in 20 overs) 166.

Fall of wickets: 1-12, 2-60, 3-110, 4-116, 5-158.

India bowling: R. P. Singh 4-0-39-1; Sreesanth 4-0-47-0; Pathan 4-0-34-2; Harbhajan 4-0-17-1; Kartik 4-0-27-0.

India: G. Gambhir c Ponting b Hilfenhaus 63; V. Sehwag c Gilchrist b Lee 5; R. Uthappa c Gilchrist b M. Clarke 35; Yuvraj Singh (not out) 31; M. Dhoni (not out) 9; Extras (lb-12, w-9, nb-3) 24; Total (for three wkts., in 18.1 overs) 167.

Fall of wickets: 1-20, 2-102, 3-143.

Australia bowling: Lee 3.1-0-35-1; Bracken 2-0-19-0; Hilfenhaus 4-0-28-1; Clark 4-0-33-0; Symonds 3-0-26-0; M. Clarke 2-0-14-1.