Ishant is the toast

On a lively MCG pitch, Ishant Sharma & Co. exposed Australia’s vulnerability against swing and seam, writes S. Dinakar.

Australia will introspect its five-wicket defeat at the MCG. This was a surface that should have suited the Aussie batsmen who relish bounce on the wicket. Ricky Ponting’s men, save Michael Hussey, took the fast ticket to the pavilion.

In the Perth Test too, the Aussie batsmen struggled to cope with movement and extra bounce. And these are batsmen who have been brought up on such tracks.

Chinks are showing in the Aussie line-up. They have been vulnerable against swing and seam, and there has been too much dependence on a couple of batsmen. This was not the case earlier when Australia invariably found men for the situation. And the side would orchestrate great recovery acts.

Ponting’s men are still a formidable bunch. Their destruction of Sri Lanka the other night at the SCG is a case in point. However, the side has been lacking in consistency after the World Cup triumph. They are no longer invincible.

On a lively pitch, Ishant Sharma & Co. exposed Australia’s vulnerability against swing and seam. India’s first ODI victory over Australia at the MCG in 21 years also put the side on top of the points table with eight from three matches. Australia has seven from three, but these are early days in the competition.

Ponting will seek to find a way out of the Ishant menace. If the Punter regains form, Australia could be rolling again. “Ishant is a dangerous bowler with the angles he creates,” said the Australian skipper at the end of the match. He dwelt on Ishant’s ability to bring the ball sharply into the right hander.

Well as the Indian pacemen bowled to dismiss Australia for 159 on a surprisingly lively pitch, the Aussie technique was inadequate. Once the ball began to jag around, the batsmen were guilty of driving, poking or pushing at deliveries without adequate movement of the feet.

When much depended on him, Michael Clarke tamely flicked Pathan into mid-wicket’s hands. Brad Haddin attempted an ambitious pull sweep to a Harbhajan delivery drifting down the leg-side and Dhoni effected a smart stumping. This was an indiscreet stroke considering the situation Australia was in.

Ponting chose to bat and then his team floundered. Adam Gilchrist got a poor decision — he had edged the ball on to his pads but was adjudged leg-before to Sreesanth — but there was no excuse for the others. Hayden, Ponting and Symonds were all taken out by Ishant. All three succumbed to deliveries that bounced more than they expected around the off-stump. Ishant switched his line, consistently kept the ball around the off-stump to both the right and the left-handers. He scalped four, but deserved more.

Ishant had begun in an inconsistent fashion after which skipper Dhoni had a word with the young bowler. “He told me to be myself and not try to be somebody else. He asked me to concentrate on my plan. It calmed me down,” said Ishant.

Sreesanth was sharp and swung the ball away from the right hander and into the left-hander. Pathan too tested the batsmen with his swing and control. The Indians kept the pressure on the Aussies. The World Champion never really recovered.

The Indians stumbled in the run chase; this was expected considering the pitch still had juice in it. The Aussie pace attack of Lee, Bracken, Johnson and Clark bowled with aggression and control. There were no easy runs for the Indians.

Sachin Tendulkar made a crucial 44 that included a couple of glorious straight drives off Lee. However, when the maestro was in his 20s, he edged Clark to Gilchrist. Umpire Rudi Koertzen, who had an ordinary game, did not respond to the Aussie appeal.

Gautam Gambhir sparked briefly before being fired out by a well-directed short ball from Lee. Yuvraj Singh’s lack of confidence and footwork saw him being consumed by Clark’s slower delivery. The young Rohit Sharma kept his cool in a pressure situation. He had his moments of discomfort, but did not allow them to affect his concentration. There were a couple of wristy strokes timed to perfection that indicated his ability. Skipper Dhoni once again displayed resolve. The two cut out all escape routes for Australia.

India shone under floodlights in a magnificent arena.

THE SCORES

CB Tri-Series, Fourth Match, Australia v India, Melbourne Cricket Ground, February 10. India won by 5 wickets.

Australia: A. Gilchrist lbw b Sreesanth 0; M. Hayden c Dhoni b I. Sharma 25; R. Ponting c Tendulkar b I. Sharma 9; M. Clarke c R. Sharma b Pathan 11; A. Symonds c Dhoni b I. Sharma 14; M. Hussey (not out) 65; B. Haddin st. Dhoni b Harbhajan Singh 5; B. Lee c Dhoni b Pathan 10; M. Johnson c Uthappa b Sreesanth 3; N. Bracken c Tendulkar b Sreesanth 1; S. Clark c Dhoni b I. Sharma 0; Extras (b-1, lb-3, w-9, nb-3) 16. Total (43.1 overs) 159.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-37, 3-47, 4-64, 5-75, 6-92, 7-145, 8-151, 9-155.

India bowling: Sreesanth 9-0-31-3; I. Sharma 9.1-1-38-4; Pathan 8-0-26-2; Harbhajan 8-2-19-1; Sehwag 5-0-24-0; Yuvraj 2-0-11-0; Tendulkar 2-0-6-0.

India: V. Sehwag lbw b Bracken 11; S. Tendulkar c Lee b Johnson 44; I. Pathan lbw b Johnson 18; G. Gambhir c Clarke b Lee 21; Yuvraj Singh c Hussey b Clark 3; R. Sharma (not out) 39; M. Dhoni (not out) 17; Extras (lb-2, w-5) 7. Total (for 5 wkts. in 45.5 overs) 160.

Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-54, 3-89, 4-96, 5-102.

Australia bowling: Lee 9-0-42-1; Bracken 10-0-35-1; Clark 10-1-26-1; Johnson 10-1-24-2; Clarke 4-0-12-0; Symonds 2.5-0-19-0.