The winning habit

WINNING is a habit, and the Australians, save for the odd aberration, have the habit of winning.

S. DINAKAR

Adam Gilchrist smashes Anil Kumble on way to a swashbuckling hundred. -- Pic. K. GOPINATHAN-

WINNING is a habit, and the Australians, save for the odd aberration, have the habit of winning.

They are consistent and ruthless. And they are the World Champions.

They could be without key players, they could be battling on pitches not really conducive to their brand of cricket, yet these men from down under keep brushing aside their opponents.

The Aussie captain, Ricky Ponting, stepped on the gas after Gilchrist's departure. Here he hammers Yuvraj Singh. -- Pic. K. GOPINATHAN-

It was no different at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in the TVS tri-series, where the Indians were at the receiving end yet again, the Aussies clinching the duel by 61 runs.

Ricky Ponting's men had already booked their ticket to the final, but the intensity with which the Aussies went about their job, reflected their commitment.

In the afternoon, after Ponting had called right, Adam Gilchrist (111) and the skipper (108 not out) knocked the daylights out of the Indian attack, with blows of stunning brilliance.

And then, after Sachin Tendulkar conjured a blistering 89, the Indians chasing a mammoth 348, gradually ran out of steam.

Ponting, however, had a huge slice of luck when Rahul Dravid missed an easy stumping off Murali Kartik. The Aussie captain had made only 25 then. -- Pic. K. GOPINATHAN-

As it happens so often during a high run-chase, when the asking rate mounts, the wickets begin to tumble. To sustain the momentum against a side as resilient as the Aussies is a tall order indeed.

At the end of this run-filled encounter that ended under the lights, the Aussies, finished their league engagements with a whopping 28 points, while the Indians, who managed a point from the duel, were level with the Kiwis with 10 after five matches.

The match in Bangalore was one which the Indian bowlers would want to forget in a hurry. It was a day when the Aussie batsmen were in a mean mood.

There was just no respite for the Indians as Gilchrist, Ponting and Martyn cut loose, even as they ensured that they would build partnerships.

Ian Harvey brings to an end Sachin Tendulkar's valiant knock. -- Pic. K. GOPINATHAN-

It was exhilarating stuff as the Aussie duo of Ponting and Martyn rattled up 102 runs in the last 10 overs — the Indian bowlers and fielders running out of ideas. Things, indeed, went hopelessly wrong for the Indians.

The Indian bowling, save for left-arm spinner Murali Kartik's teasing first spell of 8-0-33-0, wilted under the onslaught and the fielding was ragged. It was clear that the Indians had taken a psychological pounding.

Ashish Nehra, making a comeback after tending to his injured ankle, and Zaheer Khan shared the new ball, and came under the hammer as the left-handed Aussie opening duo of Gilchrist and Hayden seized the initiative.

The think-tank would do well to have a right-left new ball combination against the Aussies. That would offer more in terms of variety.

Ponting was a touch uncertain initially, as Kartik got a few deliveries to curl away from him. However, he decided to opt for the brave course and it paid rich dividends. Ponting cleared the ropes seven times in his 102-ball unbeaten 108, his 15th ODI hundred. His knock included a sensational pull off Zaheer Khan — the Aussie captain charged down the wicket, found the ball dug in short, but went through with the stroke to send it soaring over the mid-wicket fence.

Ponting earned a reprieve though at 25 when Rahul Dravid donning the big gloves failed to bring off a regulation stumping off Kartik. The Indians had to pay a heavy price for the lapse.

Martyn's effort (61 not out, 50b, 8x4) oozed with class, and the manner in which this graceful right-hander eased the ball through the covers, finding the gaps to perfection, showed the amount of time he had at his disposal.

A superb dive by Michael Kasprowicz to take a return catch signals the exit of Rahul Dravid. -- Pic. K. BHAGYA PRAKASH-

The Indians were always up against it and although Tendulkar (89, 91b, 12x4, 1x6) dazzled under the lights, the task was always going to prove too much. Ian Harvey, who has a very effective yorker-slower ball routine, castled Tendulkar and the writing was on the wall for India.

Among the Aussie bowlers, paceman Michael Kasprowicz, big and strong, operated with discipline and grabbed a sensational return catch off Dravid, and Symonds displayed his utility value.

And the Aussies registered yet another win. Winning is a wonderful habit to have really

The scores:

Australia: Adam Gilchrist c Khan b Kumble 111; Matthew Hayden (run out) 44; Ricky Ponting (not out) 108; Damien Martyn (not out) 61; Extras: (1b, 9lb, 1nb, 12w) 23; Total (for two wickets, 50 overs) 347.

Fall of wickets: 1-119, 2-198.

India bowling: Ashish Nehra 10-0-80-0, Zaheer Khan 10-0-67-0, Anil Kumble 9-0-60-1, Virender Sehwag 5-0-36-0, Murali Kartik 10-2-51-0, Sourav Ganguly 2-0-10-0 , Yuvraj Singh 4-0-33-0.

India: Virender Sehwag b Harvey 39; Sachin Tendulkar b Harvey 89; Venkat Sai Laxman c Symonds b Clarke 18; Sourav Ganguly c Bichel b Symonds 37; Rahul Dravid c and b Kasprowicz 34; Yuvraj Singh lbw b Symonds 20; Mohammad Kaif b Symonds 8; Zaheer Khan (run out) 2; Anil Kumble (not out) 12; Murali Katrik (not out) 4; Extras: (5b, 6lb, 1nb, 11w) 23; Total (for eight wickets, 50 overs) 286.

Fall of wickets: 1-103, 2-148, 3-172, 4-217, 5-254, 6-254, 7-259, 8-277.

Australia bowling: Brad Williams 8-0-43-0, Michael Kasprowicz 10-0-37-1, Andy Bichel 9-0-46-0, Andrew Symonds 9-0-42-3, Ian Harvey 10-0-71-2, Michael Clarke 4-0-36-1.