Kartik, the hero

Murali Kartik sliced through the Aussie line-up with six for 27. He then remained unbeaten with 21 as India, chasing 194, clinched a humdinger under the lights. S. Dinakar reports.

The trick is in the mind. Murali Kartik is at peace with himself, is enjoying his cricket and there is a rare flow to his bowling.

The storms of the past have abated. He no longer worries about future. He lives the moment and even laughs on the arena. And he picks up wickets and still loves the Wankhede Stadium pitch.

The left-arm spinner sliced through the Aussie line-up with six for 27. He then remained unbeaten with 21 as India, chasing 194, clinched a humdinger under the lights.

Australia took the Future Cup series 4-2 but India found some joy at the end. In the middle, Kartik and Zaheer Khan celebrated. Soon, their team-mates joined in.

The unbeaten ninth-wicket pair added 52 runs in 62 balls in the cauldron. Zaheer (31 not out) and Kartik (21), a right-left combination, survived with some luck and pluck.

India had been reduced to 64 for six with the Aussie pacemen hunting in a pack on a pitch offering seam movement and bounce. The ball gripped and turned for the spinners as well.

A free-stroking Robin Uthappa (47 off 59 balls) rallied with the tail. Uthappa is a lot more balanced in his strokeplay and is handling stressful situations well. Harbhajan Singh batted with rare resolve on a bowler-friendly surface. The seventh-wicket pair put on 65 in 13.1 overs to orchestrate an Indian recovery.

The Indians were also helped by the fact that the Kookaburra ball lost its sting after the early overs. Left-arm Chinaman bowler Brad Hogg, trying too hard on a pitch offering turn, had an off-day. The Indians were able to regroup.

Kartik bowled beautifully after Ricky Ponting elected to bat. He spun the ball away from the right-hander, both from the middle and off-stump. He used the crease cleverly and it was not easy for the batsmen to pick his line.

He flighted the ball and achieved the dip. Kartik drifted the ball into the right-hander and spun it away. He also surprised the batsmen with the occasional quicker delivery and the arm ball.

There were some memorable dismissals. The left-arm spinner consumed Brad Hodge with a delivery that spun away, prised out Brad Haddin with an arm ball. He deceived James Hopes with his length; the batsman played back only to see the ball zipping from the middle to hit the off.

Matthew Hayden was missing through injury, while Adam Gilchrist was dismissed early and there was no specialist left-hander in the Aussie line-up. The southpaws generally play the left-arm spinners well, particularly on a turning track and their absence might have helped Kartik’s cause.

This should not take any credit away from Kartik. He would argue that he would have switched his line, bowled from over-the-wicket and straightened the ball into the left-handers.

M.S. Dhoni rightly set attacking fields for Kartik. A slip, gully and silly point breathed down the batsmen’s neck. The scenario was right out of a Test match. It also reflected on Kartik’s control.

For the Aussies, skipper Ricky Ponting batted with footwork and fluency, notching up a pleasing half-century before he nicked a short-of-a-good-length delivery from Rudra Pratap Singh outside the off-stump.

Andrew Symonds was sadly greeted with boos — the Indian authorities need to look at crowd behaviour more seriously — and lasted just one delivery, cutting a Kartik delivery lacking in length to Sachin Tendulkar at cover point. This was one of the days when Australia could not build partnerships.

Even with the series in the bag, the Aussies displayed great commitment after a rare batting failure.

The pacemen probed the Indians in the corridor with precision. The specialist Indian batsmen, save Uthappa, were found wanting. Brett Lee was fast and furious, moving the ball at great velocity. Johnson tested the batsmen with left-armer’s angle, deviation and change of pace. Nathan Bracken bowled with much craft. The remarkable Adam Gilchrist snaffled up his 400th ODI catch.

India decided to ‘rest’ the out-of-form Rahul Dravid for the match. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was categorical that the former Indian captain had not been dropped.

THE SCORES

Seventh ODI, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, October 17. India won by two wkts.

Australia: M. J. Clarke lbw b Zaheer 0; A. C. Gilchrist c Harbhajan Singh b Pathan 19; R. T. Ponting c Dhoni b Singh 57; B. J. Hodge c Karthik b Kartik 16; A. Symonds c Tendulkar b Kartik 0; B. J. Haddin lbw b Kartik 19; J. R. Hopes b Kartik 22; G. B. Hogg c Uthappa b Kartik 0; B. Lee c Singh b Kartik 0; M. G. Johnson (not out) 24; N. W. Bracken c Harbhajan Singh b Singh 3; Extras (b 4, lb 3, w 26) 33; Total (in 41.3 overs) 193.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-60, 3-117, 4-117, 5-129, 6-162, 7-162, 8-162, 9-177.

India bowling: Zaheer 9-1-22-1; Singh 8.3-1-59-2; Pathan 5-0-23-1; Ganguly 2-0-24-0; Harbhajan Singh 7-0-31-0; Kartik 10-3-27-6.

India: S. C. Ganguly c Gilchrist b Johnson 0; S. R. Tendulkar b Lee 21; K. D. Karthik c Gilchrist b Johnson 0; Yuvraj Singh c Gilchrist b Bracken 15; R. V. Uthappa lbw b Clarke 47; M. S. Dhoni c Gilchrist b Bracken 5; I. K. Pathan c Clarke b Hopes 0; Harbhajan Singh c Ponting b Johnson 19; Zaheer (not out) 31; M. Kartik (not out) 21; Extras (b 4, lb 12, w 20) 36; Total (for eight wkts.) 195

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-8, 3-38, 4-49, 5-63, 6-64, 7-129, 8-143.

Australia bowling: Lee 10-1-37-1; Johnson 10-0-46-3; Bracken 10-3-30-2; Hopes 5-0-13-1; Hogg 8-0-40-0; Clarke 3-0-13-1.