High voltage drama

Ricky Ponting found his touch and that is good news for the Aussies.-PICS. AP

This was a match where there were several gains for the Aussies. Three batsmen seeking form — Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds — were all among the runs. S. Dinakar reports.

Australia clinched a high-scoring, occasionally ill-tempered, duel playing with the kind of intensity that a world champion does. Ricky Ponting made a return-to-form hundred and Brett Lee bowled his heart out on a flat track. The Australian score of 317 for seven proved adequate... only just. There were plenty of runs on the pitch. This was also a game of incidents tinged with controversy. There were words exchanged and gestures made.

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni dived to his right to pluck a sensational catch as Adam Gilchirst inside-edged S. Sreesanth. The Indians celebrated with their skipper but trouble for Dhoni was just around the corner.

Not long after that, he had to leave his gloves with match referee Jeff Crowe and wear a fresh pair since it was suspected that the webbing between the index finger and the thumb was, in violation of the ICC regulation, supported by an additional piece of leather.

“It was more like a catching glove, like a baseball glove,” said former Australian ’keeping great Ian Healy. Ponting said, “I have seen him (Dhoni) change gloves, while standing up and behind. It has happened quite often.”

Dhoni’s response was, “I have been using these gloves all summer, including the Test series. I do not see what all the fuss is about. I removed them since I did not want a controversy.”

This was also a game where paceman Ishant Sharma was docked 15 per cent of his match fee for repeatedly showing Andrew Symonds the way to the pavilion after yorking him. The Indians pointed out to the Match Referee that the Aussies were provoking the Indians.

Brett Lee picked up five wickets in the match.-

There were words exchanged between Harbhajan and Ponting.

The SCG had witnessed an acrimonious contest between two sides earlier in the summer.

Having seen the ramifications of that duel, Ponting said things should not be blown out of proportions. He admitted, though, that there were a couple of incidents.

Incidents apart, this was a match where there were several gains for Aussies. Three batsmen seeking form — Matthew Hayden, Ponting and Andrew Symonds — were all among the runs.

Ponting has made runs on any wicket but the nature of the track enabled him to find the sort of batting rhythm that has deserted him for most part of the season. He could get on to the front foot without worrying about being done in by the sideways movement. He drove and pulled Ishant Sharma, a bowler who has troubled him for most part of the summer. He used the crease well, timed the ball, found the gaps and celebrated his hundred with a clenched fist.

Hayden played some big drives before he was run-out. Symonds cut loose providing the innings the momentum in the later stages. He struck the ball with tremendous power, sent fielders on a leather hunt.

Gautam Gambhir is much smaller than Symonds but is a batsman light on feet and brave in his methods. He walked into a pressure situation and gradually put the Aussies on the back-foot.

Earlier, Lee & Co. had made major inroads with the new ball. Sachin Tendulkar, struggling for runs, succumbed to Lee, Sehwag’s ordinary form in the ODIs continued and Yuvraj Singh chased a Staurt Clark ball to doom.

Gautam Gambhir’s masterly hundred was an effort in vain.-

Gambhir responded to the stressful situation in a positive manner. The left-hander is a busy batsman who uses his wrists to rotate the strike. He also has the horizontal bat shots — the cut and the pull — for pitches down under.

The left-hander’s footwork has improved and he is playing a lot closer to his body. This was a night when Gambhir threatened the Aussies. His second century of the competition was an effort in vain though.

An incredible blitz by Robin Uthappa — he struck Lee for a stunning straight six — took India closer to the target but the Aussies kept achieving the breakthroughs.

Ponting captained well, Gilchrist stood up to the pacemen, and the Aussies took the pace off the ball. The host clinched the humdinger.

In the end, the Aussie fielding could have made the difference. The margin of victory was close — 18 runs.

THE SCORES

CB Series, 10th match, Australia v India, Sydney, February 24. Australia won by 18 runs.

Australia: A. Gilchrist c Dhoni b Sreesanth 16; M. Hayden (run out) 54; R. Ponting c Pathan b Sreesanth 124; M. Clarke c R. Sharma b Sehwag 31; A. Symonds b I. Sharma 59; M. Hussey (not out) 15; J. Hopes (run out) 4; B. Lee (run out) 0; Extras (lb-5, w-8, nb-1) 14. Total (for seven wkts., in 50 overs) 317.

Fall of wickets: 1-21, 2-131, 3-194, 4-296, 5-304, 6-317, 7-317.

India bowling: Sreesanth 8-0-58-2; I. Sharma 10-0-65-1; Pathan 9-0-73-0; Harbhajan 9-0-50-0; Sehwag 6-0-28-1; Yuvraj 8-0-38-0.

India: V. Sehwag c Gilchrist b Clark 17; S. Tendulkar lbw b Lee 2; G. Gambhir st. Gilchrist b Hogg 113; R. Sharma c Gilchrist b Bracken 1; Yuvraj Singh c Gilchrist b Clark 5; M. Dhoni c Gilchrist b Lee 36; R. Uthappa c Hussey b Lee 51; I. Pathan c Bracken b Hopes 22; Harbhajan Singh c Gilchrist b Lee 20; S. Sreesanth (not out) 3; I. Sharma b Lee 2; Extras (b-6, lb-5, w-12, nb-4) 27. Total (in 49.1 overs) 299.

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-45, 3-46, 4-51, 5-149, 6-216, 7-257, 8-290, 9-290.

Australia bowling: Lee 9.1-1-58-5; Bracken 10-0-53-1; Clark 10-0-55-2; Hopes 6-0-27-1; Hogg 9-0-62-1; Clarke 5-0-33-0.