Runs, and then it rains

Michael Clarke... dazzling display.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Michael Clarke’s 132-ball 130 and Australia’s recovery from 18 for two to a creditable 307 for seven underlined the inability of the Indian bowling to create pressure in the middle overs and deliver at the 'death'. S. Dinakar reports.

Michael Clarke...

Cricket teaches you harsh lessons. In fact, every game is a learning experience. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men discovered that maintaining pressure on the opposition was critical to closing out an innings.

Michael Clarke’s 132-ball 130 (10x4, 3x6) and Australia’s recovery from 18 for two to a creditable 307 for seven underlined the inability of the Indian bowling to create pressure in the middle overs and deliver at the ‘death’.

Australia gathered a whopping 124 runs in the last 15 overs, 87 of them in the last 10. After S. Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan had made the early dents, the Indians gradually lost the plot.

India made a disastrous start when it replied under the lights — Sachin Tendulkar was trapped leg-before by Mitchell Johnson for nought — before rain ruled out further play in the first Future Cup ODI at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. This might have been a lucky escape for the home side.

It was evident that the host needs to find specialists for the ‘death’ overs. Yorker length balls are a must but the Indians appear to have lost the art. Once the juice in the pitch disappears, the Indian pacemen struggle. Dhoni admitted to this much. On flat tracks air speed and full length may be the answers.

This was also the first ODI under the new ICC rules — a free hit off a front foot no-ball, an additional fielder outside the circle in the second and third batches of Power Play overs and mandatory ball change after the 35th over.

The changes had little effect on the 26-year-old Clarke. He created, riding on his talent. A delicate glide off Irfan Pathan that gave the third man no chance revealed his soft hands. He also has sure touch and exemplary footwork.

“He (Clarke) batted well,” admitted Dhoni. Interestingly, this is the venue where Clarke notched up a Test century on debut in 2004. On September 29, he was in a mean mood, particularly after Dhoni missed a stumping with the batsman on 31.

Clarke put on 144 in 153 balls for the fifth wicket with Brad Haddin and 73 in 49 deliveries with new all-round hope James Hopes and the Australian recovery reflected its bench strength.

Haddin (69, 83b, 7x4, 1x6), whose specialist job is to ’keep, is also a compact batsman with an uncomplicated technique. Hopes’ 25-ball 37 oozed promise. Stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist, a batsman-wicketkeeper himself dwelt on Haddin’s ability with the bat and the similar problems he had faced about breaking into the side when he was Ian Healy’s understudy. “He showed today that he can play as a specialist batsman,” said Gilchrist.

Save Sreesanth and Pathan, who comprehended his limitations, the rest of the Indian pacemen were inconsistent with their line. There were easy pickings for the Australians on the leg-side.

An extra fielder in the deep encourages the use of spinners in the Power Play overs, but the Indian think-tank picked only Powar. Interestingly, when the ball was changed after the 35th over, Powar struggled. Even a ball considered sufficiently old to be picked for the last 15 overs is unlikely to be as soft as the one used in match play for 35 overs. And the spinners, generally, require a softer ball in the latter stages of an innings.

There was not much reverse swing for the pacemen, although Sreesanth achieved some conventional swing. Again the ball needs to be sufficiently old for it to bend the other way. But the Indians could have bowled the right length — into the block-hole.

The harder ball actually enabled the batsmen to find more pace on it. This enhanced scoring.

Perhaps the captains will be more innovative with Power Play overs once they comprehend the dynamics of the rule changes. There were too many bowling changes from India. Removing Powar after a four-over stint and then bringing him on in the end overs was baffling. Dhoni seemed to be suffering from the Twenty20 hangover.

India’s new ball pairing of Zaheer and Sreesanth was a left-right one which is a time-tested ploy. It made the early inroads. Then Clarke took centrestage.

THE SCORES

First ODI, Bangalore, September 29, 2007. Match abandoned due to rain.

Australia: A. Gilchrist c Yuvraj b Zaheer 12; M. Hayden b Sreesanth 34; B. Hodge lbw b Sreesanth 0; M. Clarke (run out) 130; A. Symonds lbw b Sreesanth 7; B. Haddin st. Dhoni b Yuvraj 69; J. Hopes c Tendulkar b Zaheer 37; B. Lee (not out) 0; Extras (b-4, lb-1, w-11, nb-2) 18. Total (for seven wkts., in 50 overs) 307.

Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-18, 3-78, 4-90, 5-234, 6-307, 7-307.

India bowling: Zaheer 10-0-64-2; Sreesanth 10-0-55-3; R. P. Singh 10-0-67-0; I. Pathan 8-0-38-0; Powar 6-1-50-0; Yuvraj 6-0-28-1.

India: G. Gambhir (not out) 4; S. Tendulkar lbw b Johnson 0; I. Pathan (not out) 0; Extras (b-4, w-1) 5. Total (for one wkt., in 2.4 overs) 9.

Fall of wicket: 1.

Australia bowling: Lee 1.4-1-4-0; Johnson 1-0-1-1.