Lee is all about hostility & control

The young Indian side displayed fight on the field. As the tour progresses, it will have to work on technique and temperament, writes S. Dinakar.

A young Indian team fought hard at the ’Gabba after the batsmen had come up short. When rain finally ended the contest of interruptions, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men had given themselves a chance of staging an upset.

Chasing a revised target of 141 in 26 overs, Australia was 51 for three in 7.2 overs. Pacemen S. Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma were humming on a lively pitch and batting certainly was not easy. Then, it rained again.

Skipper Dhoni pleaded for more time with a budding squad. “We are building a team for the 2011 World Cup. We want to be in a situation when most of these players would have played 80 to 100 matches by then. The plan can backfire but is well worth a try.”

A largely inexperienced team requires time to settle down and India would have been happy to collect two points from the abandoned game. At one point the side appeared headed towards a rout.

At 102 for six — the team collapsed from 91 for two — India stared at an embarrassing defeat. Skipper Dhoni displayed resolve and there was sting in the tail. A total of 194 meant the team could at least battle it out.

The Aussies had called the shots for most part. Brett Lee bowled with hostility and control. The pace ace is at the peak of his career. He is the spearhead now and relishes the role. Lee is enjoying the responsibility, not looking at it as a burden. And he is making the batsmen sweat.

At the ’Gabba, Lee brought his variety into play. He swung the ball away from the right-hander. Lee also delivered the leg-cutters laced with bounce. The Aussie pegged the batsmen back with well-directed short-pitched balls. He compounded their problems with scorching full length deliveries.

His seventh five-wicket haul in ODIs was a class act. He was sorting batsmen out, setting them up. Debutant Manoj Tiwary succumbed to the bouncer-yorker combination.

Lee dwelt on the value of patience as the leader of the pack.

“This is important. It has got me wickets. The way the ball is coming out of hand, I am trying to do the same thing.”

Dhoni’s decision to bat was a brave one. It had been raining hard before the start — the groundsmen helped by excellent drainage facilities performed a marvellous job — and there was bound to be some moisture on a surface with a greenish tinge.

But Dhoni would have also taken into consideration the fact that, given the forecast of more rain in the evening, the chasing side could be hampered by the implementation of the Duckworth and Lewis method.

India staged a fightback of sorts during its innings through Dhoni, Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh. It was still advantage Australia.

That India got close to 200 after its two major batsmen — Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag — failed meant the side hung in there.

The injured Yuvraj Singh was not a part of the eleven too. When Tendulkar played back to Lee and trod on to his stumps, it was the first time in international cricket that he had been dismissed hit wicket.

Gautam Gambhir, flashy but entertaining, and the elegant but chancy Rohit Sharma, revived the Indian innings, at least marginally. The luckless left-arm paceman Mitchell Johnson finally trapped Gambhir leg-before and Lee prised out Sharma.

India’s running between the wickets was excellent but the batsmen required to improve their stroke selection. The energy levels have to be complemented by reading of the situation.

For the host, debutant Ashley Noffke gave indications of his potential. He surprised Robin Uthappa with a delivery that climbed into the batsman and was lively in his second spell. His run-up and approach are rhythmic.

When the Aussies pursued, Sreesanth and Ishant generated pace. Sreesanth swung them while Ishant seamed them around. The duo made early inroads.

Gilchrist gloved a pull off Sreesanth and ‘walked.’ Ishant cleaned up stand-in opener James Hopes with a scorching off-cutter. Sreesanth squared up and consumed Ponting with a perfect outswinger.

Lee conceded in the end, “The manner Sreesanth was bowling, India had a chance.”

The young Indian side displayed fight on the field. As the tour progresses, it will have to work on technique and temperament.

THE SCORES

CB tri-series, first match, Australia v India, Woolloongabba, Brisbane, February 3. No result.

India: V. Sehwag b Bracken 6; S. Tendulkar (hit wkt.) b Lee 10; G. Gambhir lbw b Johnson 39; R. Sharma c Gilchrist b Lee 29; M. Tiwary b Lee 2; M. Dhoni c Ponting b Lee 37; R. Uthappa c Clarke b Noffke 5; I. Pathan (run out) 21; Harbhajan Singh c Clarke b Lee 27; S. Sreesanth (run out) 4; I. Sharma (not out) 1; Extras (lb-7, w-4, nb-2) 13. Total: 194.

Fall of wickets: 1-12, 2-26, 3-91, 4-93, 5-94, 6-102, 7-147, 8-189, 9-190.

Australia bowling: Lee 9-2-27-5; Bracken 9-0-55-1; Noffke 9-0-46-1; Johnson 9-2-33-1; Hopes 6-0-17-0; Clarke 2-0-5-0; Symonds 1-0-4-0.

Australia: A. Gilchrist c Dhoni b Sreesanth 14; J. Hopes b I. Sharma 17; R. Ponting c Sehwag b Sreesanth 0; M. Clarke (not out) 2; A. Symonds (not out) 5; Extras (b-4, w-4, nb-5) 13. Total (for three wkts., in 7.2 overs) 51.

Fall of wickets: 1-33, 2-38, 3-39.

India bowling: Pathan 2-0-23-0; Sreesanth 3.2-0-17-2; I. Sharma 2-0-7-1.