Downpour keeps Indian hopes afloat for now
Match 9: Group A – Centurion Match Abandoned – Australia 234/4 (42.3 overs) Hussey 67, Ponting 65, Paine 56 vs India (did not bat)
East Kilbride noiseniks the Jesus and Mary Chain once sang that they were only “Happy When It Rains”. This could also apply to the Indian cricket team after a deluge resulted in the abandonment of their Group A match with Australia yesterday with Ricky Ponting’s side in a commanding position at 234/4 in the 43rd over.
Defeat would have handed India an early exit and given that the highest successful run chase so far in the tournament was South Africa surpassing New Zealand’s 214, then an Australia victory looked the most likely outcome before the long threatened downpour came. Indian hopes still hang by a thread however. They now need to beat the WICB XI in their next game whilst hoping that Australia lose to Pakistan and that their net run rate is enough to squeeze them past Australia into the semi finals. Pakistan also would have enjoyed the rain as it confirmed their passage from the group.
After winning the toss yesterday, Ponting unsurprisingly had no hesitation in opting to bat with Australia unchanged from their victory over the WICB XI. India made two changes after the humbling by Pakistan with RP Singh and Yusuf Pathan making way for Praveen Kumar and Amit Mishra.
India got off to the ideal start when Ashish Nehra induced a false shot from Shane Watson, leading to a comfortable catch for Harbhajan Singh at mid wicket – Watson’s second successive duck of the competition. This left Tim Paine and Ponting to first repair and then quicken the tempo for an excellent second wicket partnership of 84, which saw Australia begin to get on top. Paine, only in the side because of injury to Brad Haddin, continued the positive impression he made in the Nat West series reaching his fifty from only 51 balls before top edging an attempted sweep off Mishra to mid-wicket.
Mike Hussey now joined his skipper and came in bristling with positive intent belying his recent poor form. The two added 88 in only 97 balls to give Australia a commanding platform from which to launch a last ten over charge, with Hussey in particular demonstrating why he has Test and ODI averages in excess of 50. Ponting was more circumspect but no less effective and reached his fifty off 67 balls and the two looked set fair to bat India out of the match. Then out of nothing a direct hit from the deep by Gautam Gambhir ran out Ponting for 65. What is it about these two and run outs?
Cameron White, promoted to five, came in to join Hussey and the pair compiled Australia’s third fifty partnership of the innings. Hussey put the run out of his captain behind him as he had at the Oval and reached his fifty off only 45 balls. White too scored at over a run a ball. Two overs before rain brought an early halt to proceedings, Hussey holed out to Sachin Tendulkar at long on off the unimpressive Ishant Sharma for an excellent 67. Two overs later with White and Callum Ferguson poised to launch themselves into the final few overs the umpires took the players off never to return.
For India, Nehra was again the pick of the bowlers with 1/38 off his eight overs along with Mishra who took 1/45 from nine overs. Sharma was again a shadow of his former self and just like the biblical Samson seems to have lost his pace and power since he had his long hair cut short.
So Australia move on to play already qualified Pakistan who are faced with the quandary that a win over the Australians could enable their old foes to scrape home through to the semi-final.
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