Wankhede lucky again for Aussies

MUMBAI kept the cricketers of the two teams, India and Australia, busy. The back-to-back Wisden and Ceat Awards were two off-the-field events that brought into focus the outstanding performances of some cricketers over a period of 12 months.

G. VISWANATH

Damien Martyn, who struck a fine century, cuts Anil Kumble. -- Pic. VIVEK BENDRE-

MUMBAI kept the cricketers of the two teams, India and Australia, busy. The back-to-back Wisden and Ceat Awards were two off-the-field events that brought into focus the outstanding performances of some cricketers over a period of 12 months.

Australia's captain Ricky Ponting took the centrestage, adjudged Cricketer of the Year by the world famous almanack and the tyre company whose Bollywood style awards function has been a popular feature for the last eight years. It was partying time, though the main agenda for the teams was the TVS Cup league match at the Wankhede Stadium.

Nathan Bracken, the left-arm paceman, picked up four Indian wickets. Here he brilliantly takes a return catch from Harbhajan Singh. -- Pic. VIVEK BENDRE-

Ponting's men, though not all of them were present at the two venues where the award functions were held, enjoyed the attention and the attendant glamour. But they didn't let this distract them and showed true professional resolve in their second match against the home team. The last time the Australians had played in a one-dayer at the Wankhede — in the 1996 World Cup — Mark Taylor's team had outsmarted the Indians. Three years ago Steve Waugh's team drubbed India in three days in a Test match. Thereafter Nasser Hussain's England got the better of India in a one-dayer. So Wankhede had turned out to be a not-so-lucky ground for India.

There was much at stake for the two teams. Australia prepared itself earnestly to battle it out against India, which after its win at Gwalior had stolen some of the thunder from the World Cup winner. The Indian spinners had delivered the goods and they were expected to repeat the show. Australia learnt a lesson or two in defeat and came back strongly by crushing New Zealand at Faridabad. Ponting and coach John Buchanan said they were pleased with this win, but their main intention was to stop the home team from gaining the upper hand again.

Michael Clarke, too, scalped four Indians. He is congratulated by Adam Gilchrist for getting rid of the Indian skipper Rahul Dravid. -- Pic. VIVEK BENDRE-

Australia's batsmen approach their game differently and thus bring variety. To start with Adam Gilchrist targeted India's spearhead Zaheer Khan who conceded 64 runs off just seven overs. His only victim was Matthew Hayden, who was not ''in'' to use a cricketing parlance and hence was surprised by the extra bounce. Rahul Dravid chose Virender Sehwag as Zaheer Khan's new ball partner, but was forced to retreat after Gilchrist thumped him all over the park.

Damien Martyn is a dangerous batsman and India suffered at his hands in the World Cup final. This time Martyn made a well measured 100, his fifth century in one-day internationals. He played safe against a good burst by Ajit Agarkar, smothered the spin and hit out at the slow bowlers as time wore on. He is a batsman who picks up the line and length quite early.

Martyn took on the responsibility and showed himself to be a very versatile batsman. He worked the ball around for singles and also indulged in fine strokeplay when the occasion presented itself.

On the back of his century, made in nearly three hours, Australia got close to the magic mark of 300 runs. The Indian spinners made no impression on Martyn. He was severe on Anil Kumble whom he cut and pulled. Once, he also stepped out to smack the legspinner for a six. In all he struck 11 boundary shots in his 118-ball tenure in the middle, building partnerships with Andy Symonds (78 for the fourth wicket) and with Michael Bevan (111 for the fifth).

The new pitch did not turn out to be an ideal strip. Martyn and the others had to play carefully. This was necessary, too as Matthew Hayden departed after facing just one ball and Ponting was declared leg before by umpire Neil Mallender. The game slowly slipped away from India's control after Martyn (100, 119b, 10x4, 1x6) set his sights on a big score. Introduced after Zaheer Khan, Sehwag, Harbhajan and Kumble had bowled many overs, Agarkar proved to be restrictive with the old ball. He has on most occasions bowled well against the Australians and impressed them. This time he took four wickets, a sea change after his poor opening spell at Gwalior.

Andy Bichel is over the moon after dismissing Venkat Sai Laxman. -- Pic. VIVEK BENDRE-

Left arm seamer Nathan Bracken struck off the first ball, dismissing Virender Sehwag. This, straightaway, marked the beginning of Australia's victory. Sachin Tendulkar and Dravid began to build a partnership and bother Ponting. Before the commencement of the triseries Andy Bichel said Australia would target Tendulkar. But the Indian master took a hundred off Australia at Gwalior and looked good for another three-figure score in Mumbai before he challenged part-time bowler Michael Clarke and perished. After his dismissal for 68, Dravid made a half-century. Thereafter five Indian batsmen were dismissed for single digit scores, which hastened the home team's defeat.

Dravid said that Australia's fast scoring in spite of losing wickets made all the difference. ''A lot of things went wrong. We did not bowl particularly well on a slow turner. I decided to start with Sehwag to preserve Harbhajan and Anil for the middle overs,'' reasoned Dravid.

Ponting might not have been happy with the decision given by Mallender, but nonetheless was delighted at the outcome of the match. He praised `Man of the Match' Martyn, Symonds (48, 59b, 4x4, 1x6) and Bevan (42, 57b, 5x4).

The scores:

Australia:A. C. Gilchrist c Kaif b Harbhajan Singh 41; M. L. Hayden c Yuvraj Singh b Khan 0; R. T. Ponting lbw b Agarkar 31; D. R. Martyn b Agarkar 100; A. Symonds c Harbhajan Singh b Yuvraj Singh 48; M. G. Bevan c Kaif b Agarkar 42; M. J. Clarke (run out) 2; A. J. Bichel b Agarkar 1; G. B. Hogg (not out) 0; Extras (b-4, lb-2, w-8, nb-7) 21; Total (for eight wickets in 50 overs) 286.

Ajit Agarkar responded well after being deliberately introduced late into the attack. One of his four victims was Michael Bevan. -- Pic. VIVEK BENDRE-

Fall of wickets:1-9, 2-55, 3-93, 4-171, 5-282, 6-283, 7-286, 8-286.

India bowling: Khan 7-0-64-1; Sehwag 4-0-28-0; Harbhajan Singh 10-0-44-1; Kumble 8-0-50-0; Agarkar 9-0-37-4; Tendulkar 4-0-21-0; Yuvraj Singh 8-1-36-1.

India:V. Sehwag lbw b Bracken 0; S. R. Tendulkar b Clarke 68; V.V.S. Laxman c Gilchrist b Bichel 21; R. Dravid c Bichel b Clarke 59; Yuvraj Singh c Gilchrist b Clarke 9; M. Kaif c Gilchrist b Bracken 10; A. B. Agarkar c Symonds b Bracken 2; P. A. Patel c Clarke b Hogg 16; Harbhajan Singh c & b Bracken 6; A. Kumble b Clarke 6; Z. Khan (not out) 5; Extras (lb-2, w-4, nb-1) 7; Total (in 46.2 overs) 209.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-38, 3-137, 4-153, 5-172, 6-175, 7-178, 8-185, 9-200.

Australia bowling: Bracken 10-2-29-4; Williams 5-0-20-0; Bichel 6-0-31-1; Symonds 10-0-57-0; Hogg 5.2-0-28-1; Clarke 10-0-42-4.