The day of the Whirlwind Ws

Deadly duo... David Warner and Shane Watson cross for a single during their match-winning partnership.-K.R. DEEPAK

Australia’s win by nine wickets ruined India at all levels. Its five-bowler hope was snuffed out and M. S. Dhoni’s three spinner-ploy was shredded, writes K.C. Vijaya Kumar.

The sound-waves always gain an acoustic high when India and Australia get set for a battle on a cricket ground. The latest bout was no exception as the prelude was a mix of bravado and guarded respect.

Pat Cummins spoke of the Indians’ discomfort about coping with the short-pitched delivery. Michael Hussey stressed that Harbhajan Singh is a class-act. And to queer the pitch, Greg Chappell threw light on Virender Sehwag’s ‘attitude’ in his column in The Hindu.

Yet when the much awaited ICC World Twenty20 Super Eights Group II match on September 28 concluded at the R. Premadasa Stadium, the maximum noise actually emanated from the bats of Shane Watson and David Warner. The openers’ 133-run partnership off 81 balls helped Australia win by nine wickets and ruined India at all levels. Its five-bowler hope was snuffed out and M. S. Dhoni’s three spinner-ploy was shredded.

Australia’s upsurge was partly enhanced by India’s tepid batting in the first phase and Watson and Warner also found some minor assistance from the brief rain-interlude, shortly after the dinner break.

“Our spinners could not grip the (wet) ball and that’s why you saw them bowl short balls. The rain did affect our plans,” Dhoni said.

India’s 140 for seven was too weak a benchmark to test the Aussies. And once Watson (72, 42b, 2x4, 7x6) and Warner (63 not out, 41b, 7x4, 3x6) took flight with meaty strikes during the Power Play (47/0), a one-sided clash emerged in all its brutal glory. Australia raced away to 141 for one in 14.1 overs. Watson swung R. Ashwin high over the ropes repeatedly and though both the batsmen had their moments of doubt against Zaheer Khan, Warner punched the left-arm seamer twice through the off-side. The mayhem never stopped and though Dhoni used eight bowlers, there was no let-up in the assault that the Australians mounted.

Even India’s usual trump card against the same rival in sub-continental conditions — Harbhajan Singh — kept watching the ball vanish into the stands and a similar plight was dished out to Irfan Pathan. As for the third spinner Piyush Chawla, his first ball was thumped for a massive six by Watson and with that India had no further surprise-weapon. Watson, after having done enough to win his third consecutive ‘Man of the Match’ award, fell to Yuvraj Singh but by then he had sewed up the match in Australia’s favour.

The ‘Watson-and-Warner’ show was the final blow to the Indians after their batting crumbled from the moment Dhoni opted to take first strike. Virender Sehwag was dropped from the playing XI but with Gambhir’s soft hands guiding a few fours, it seemed as though he would overcome the vacuum at the other end. Unfortunately Gambhir got run-out while his partner Irfan Pathan clouted a six off Watson but never lent enough momentum.

The bigger tragedy for India was the inexplicable failure of its two men in form — Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. Kohli was softened up by Cummins’ short-pitched deliveries and in a bid to lash out, the batsman miscued the attempted biff. Meanwhile Rohit was done in by a peach of a delivery as Mitchell Starc came around the wicket and angled in the ball.

Among the rest, Suresh Raina added some runs but there was no way India could walk tall after that inept batting display. And soon its bowlers too joined the harassed-club.

THE SCORES

India: G. Gambhir (run out) 17; I. Pathan c White b Watson 31; V. Kohli c Christian b Cummins 15; Yuvraj Singh c Maxwell b Watson 8; Rohit Sharma b Starc 1; S. Raina c Maxwell b Watson 26; M. Dhoni c Bailey b Cummins 15; R. Ashwin (not out) 16; Harbhajan Singh (not out) 1. Extras (b-2, lb-2, w-6) 10. Total (for seven wkts., in 20 overs): 140.

Fall of wickets: 1-26, 2-56, 3-70, 4-74, 5-74, 6-104, 7-137.

Australia bowling: Maxwell 2-0-11-0, Starc 4-0-27-1, Cummins 4-0-16-2, Watson 4-0-34-3, Christian 2-0-19-0, Hogg 4-0-29-0.

Australia: S. Watson c (sub) Tiwary b Yuvraj 72; D. Warner (not out) 63; G. Maxwell (not out) 4. Extras (w-2) 2. Total (for one wkt., in 14.5 overs): 141.

Fall of wicket: 133.

India bowling: Ashwin 3.5-0-32-0, Zaheer 3-0-18-0, Harbhajan 2-0-20-0, Piyush 1-0-14-0, Irfan 1-0-19-0, Kohli 1-0-10-0, Yuvraj 2-0-16-1, Rohit 1-0-12-0.