Batting from Heaven
India 354 for 7 (Dhoni 124, Gambhir 76, Raina 62*) beat Australia 255 (Hussey 53, Jadeja 3-35) by 99 runs
The number one ODI batsman in the world showed there is no danger of losing that mantle soon as last night he completely demolished a hapless Australian attack wrought with injury.
M.S. Dhoni simply smashed his way to 124 off 107 balls, bringing up his ton with an imperious six back over Shane Watson’s head. His partnerships with a disgustingly in-form Gautam Gambhir (76) and Suresh Raina (62), catapulted the home sides score to a titanic 7/354 from 50 overs. Australia never got close, and have even more injury problems, with the only keeper on the tour, Tim Paine, due to fly home with a badly broken finger.
The start of the game was most noticeable for the fact that Ricky Ponting won the toss and chose to FIELD!! He mentioned that this was due to the fact that they expected dew on the pitch later on, though as Mark Waugh (in the Australian host studio) pointed out, this was a bit like choosing to field because it might rain. The decision proved to be a howler. Viru Sehwag blasted 40 off 31 balls, and Gambhir and a newly returned Yuvraj Singh kept up the momentum with good support later from Raina. It is interesting to note that India made 354 without a significant contribution from Sachin Tendulkar, certainly something that wouldn’t have happened in the past.
But it was Dhoni’s day. He was simply extraordinary. He came in during the ‘dead overs’ (20-40) and worked the ball around at a run-a-ball. But when he took the powerplay in the 39th over, it was on! India scored an extraordinary 47 runs in that powerplay. Dhoni was imperious. Michael Kasprowicz, not usually known for his insightful comments, rightly pointed out that Dhoni was wielding his willow like a hockey stick; he would just scoop the ball with his bottom hand out of the ground, time and time again. The Aussie bowlers had no answer, particularly Shane Watson, who looks like a shattered man, and is surely due for a round of that famous Australian rotation.
Their batsmen really didn’t have a chance. To score over 7 an over for an entire innings at a packed away venue is near impossible. I was particularly impressed with the bowling of Praveen Kumar (2/37), who was equally impressive in the Indian’s last tour of Australia, and seems to be a swing bowler of some merit. After a slow start from Paine and Watson, the Aussie innings gained some momentum from Mike Hussey (53) and Adam Voges (36), but unfortunately it was the fall of the skipper that really meant that hope was lost. As I mentioned earlier, India used to be so reliant on the form of Tendulkar, and it seems that this Aussie team is similarly inexorably linked to the form of Ponting.
Let’s hope that this game is a sign of things to come. In fact both first games have been sensational, and are a great advertisement for the ODI format. Big crowds, great venues, super players, and a real sense of passion, means that this series is alive and well.
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