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COLOMBO: It was less a win and more a statement of intent. Often branded a pushover in the shortest format, Australia steamrolled alleged title favourites India by nine wickets on the back of Shane Watson's all-round performance in a Super Eights Group 2 match, on Friday.
The Aussie all-rounder claimed 3-34 to restrict India to 140-7 after MS Dhoni elected to bat, and then smashed seven sixes in a 42-ball 72 as the target was achieved with 31 balls to spare. Watson and David Warner (63*) added 133 for the opening wicket in under 14 overs, taking the game away from India.
It was a day when all of Dhoni's ploys failed spectacularly. India succumbed to Australia's pace battery to set a middling target as young quick Pat Cummins used the short delivery to superb effect, picking up the prized scalps of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, while giving away just 16 runs in his four overs. India then watched helplessly as their five-strong, triple spinner-loaded bowling outfit was taken to the cleaners by the Aussie openers.
Only Zaheer Khan (three overs for 18) bowled well and had several leg-before shouts against both the openers, including a particularly close call against Warner in the sixth over of the chase.
Australia blaze away
The chase began with a boundary off Ashwin, who opened the bowling for India. Three balls into Ashwin's over, the rain came down and warranted a ten-minute delay. How much of an effect the drizzle had on the conditions is open to debate, but the ball appeared to grip far less after resumption than it had in the previous match between Pakistan and South Africa, or even in the first innings when India had batted.
Warner helped himself to another boundary when Ashwin resumed his first over, but the real carnage began when the off-spinner returned for his third over - the fifth of the innings - as Watson smacked a couple of sixes. Piyush Chawla too was greeted with two hits - both by Watson - over the boundary and in the next over Warner went after Harbhajan to biff two of his own.
India's three frontline spinners all leaking sixes did not bode well for the team. And it got worse when Irfan Pathan was introduced. The southpaw, who had opened the batting for India and scratched out a painful thirty-odd, came on to bowl the 10th over and leaked 19, as Watson reached his fifty in 28 balls and Australia 100 for no loss.
It was all but done by then. Warner brought up his half-century in 37 balls, and then creamed a six off Yuvraj, who got rid of Watson when the Aussie hit to substitute Manoj Tiwary at extra cover. By then a huge win was within touching distance and the tournament's ninth-ranked side came out well on top against its third-ranked outfit.
India elect to bat
Earlier, India elected to bat and reached 140-7 with no real partnership or pivotal knock to speak of. Pathan, who was promoted to open to facilitate the ouster of Virender Sehwag and play an extra bowler, top-scored with a painstaking 31 as Australia's menacing pace battery peppered the batsmen with short deliveries.
But with three spinners in the team - R. Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla - and in the knowledge of the pivotal role than spin had played in the day's first match between Pakistan and South Africa, India wouldn't really have been displeased with the effort.
Gautam Gambhir looked comfortable in his 17, striking three fours before he was smartly run out by Pat Cummins' footwork on the red cherry at the non-striker's end. The man in form Virat Kohli came in next and was timing the ball sweetly, before he was hustled into a mistimed pull by a Pat Cummins bouncer and caught at mid off.
The bouncer claimed another victim when Yuvraj Singh top-edged Shane Watson going for the pull and was caught at mid-wicket. In the same over, Watson sent back a struggling Pathan. And when Rohit Sharma missed the line to be bowled by Mitchell Starc in the 12th over, India were precariously perched on 74-4.
Suresh Raina (26) got things moving with MS Dhoni. The two added 30 runs before the India captain reached for a fast and wide one from Cummins, hitting it straight to George Bailey at cover. R. Ashwin pulled a six off Starc and Raina nailed two boundaries off Watson's last over of the innings, before he was caught at long off.
India finished with 140, something they would have had fair aspirations of defending in the light of what transpired in the previous match. But the brief spell of rain one over into Australia's innings, or plain incompetent bowling, or just smashing batting by Watson and Warner, made it a no contest.
All-round Watson decimates India
Australia register massive nine-wicket win.Yahoo! Cricket – Fri 28 Sep, 2012 10:40 PM IST
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