Ponting made the difference

Written by: Allan Border
Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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On a brilliant day in front of a full MCG another excellent game was played between world champions, Australia, and India. With over 500 runs scored the fans were treated to some wonderful and entertaining cricket. Australian teams over the years have always preferred to bat first, particularly in day/night fixtures. Stephen Waugh, having won the toss, continued this trend deciding to take first use of a great wicket.

The Indians came out pumping and the early indications were ominous and that Australia was in for a real fight. As in all games of cricket, you can look back and identify crucial moments or periods that have an effect on the final result. Crucial period number one came with the arrival to the crease of Ricky Ponting after Australia had lost two early wickets. Almost immediately Ricky wrestled the initiative away from the Indians with a magnificent display of cutting and pulling that set the scene for a big score. Ricky, over the past couple of seasons has been steadily improving his consistency in the one day game, the only hiccup being his lapses between 30 and 50. In this match, maybe as a result of being named Australian vice-captain, he went on with the job registering his century off just 109 balls.

Crucial period number two came in the unlikely form of Damien Fleming batting in partnership with Shane Lee. This pair came together with Australia, who had earlier threatened a huge score, running into trouble and battling to post a score of 250. This is not too shabby, but the momentum had been lost and India would have gone to the break satisfied with the way they had finished the innings. Enter Fleming and Lee, chipping the ball into gaps and running hard between the wickets, producing a handy little cameo partnership pushing the Australian score to 269, which is a formidable total at the MCG. The Indians began the run chase under extreme pressure from two of the best new ball bowlers going around in McGrath and Fleming. V V S Laxman was soon on his way flashing at McGrath and then, to most observers' surprise, wicketkeeper Dighe was promoted to number three. I can understand the thinking behind this move, i.e. to try and increase the run rate, but unfortunately for India, Dighe faced 25 balls scoring just 3 and, once again, the Aussies were in charge. Crucial moment number three was the run out of Sachin Tendulkar. In a brilliant piece of fielding by Shane Lee the little master was caught short of his ground. The Indian innings had just started to gain momentum with a partnership between the ever improving Ganguly and Tendulkar but was stopped just at the wrong time for the Indians. Throughout the innings Saurav Ganguly continued to blossom. He is such a class player when in form and his innings in this match was a joy to watch. There are not many better players through the off side than this man. While he was at the crease and building a century plus partnership with Dravid, India had a great chance of overhauling Australia's 269.

Sadly for India, crucial moment number four happened in the form of the run out of the brilliant left-hander. I can only put his dismissal down to fatigue after scoring a swashbuckling century off only 126 balls. Saurav would have made his ground had he slid his bat, but didn't and paid the ultimate price. With Ganguly's dismissal, India's challenge faltered and the asking rate proved too much for the remaining batsmen, India finishing on 241 for 6. Overall, it was a very pleasing performance by the Australians who gained their first points in this triangular series trailing Pakistan who are on 4 and leaving India yet to register a win.

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