It did matter and McGrath made it matter, at the expense of the Indian top order. Scenes and scores reminiscent of the crunch World Cup clash last year in England, when India collapsed before Jadeja and Singh muscled their way to 205. McGrath's first spell extracted seam and bounce to accompany his renowned control and miserly instincts, when armed with a cricket ball. Australia's biggest targets were both gone before the score was 10 and at 4/29 off 14 overs, the rescue mission had to be monumental.
It wasn't, although Dravid and Singh steadied a rocking ship with a liaison of 42 runs, a mini collapse followed their dismissals and Andrew Symonds, standing the seam upright at medium pace found himself on the 11th attempted hat trick of the summer with the first ball caught behind verdict against Kumble. It didn't eventuate, but it was Symonds who cleaned up the tail and backed up the incredible bowling analysis of McGrath.
This pitch had been misread by all at this stage. The pitch report told us 260 would be required, Tendulkar wanted to bat first and the Aussie captain wasn't decisive, so the groundstaff disguised the venom expertly, even if it was unintentional. Times aren't good for the Indian bats and these certainly weren't the conditions they needed to springboard themselves back into the Carlton and United Series. However they still could've shown more enterprise to drag a better total out of the wreckage of 100. Singles run through gully, get more bat on the leg side deliveries which cannoned into pads and summon the nerve to hit over the fielders who were very close.
An extra 30 runs may have been critical to their cause, as the earlier life in the pitch remained and was even enhanced by a brief shower and sluggish covering of the strip. Srinath and Prasad caused as many problems for their opponent as the Indians received while batting and Tendulkar had to operate them both for their full 10 overs to cover for the lack of another strike fast man in Agarkar's enforced absence, due to a torn hamstring. The combination toiled manfully knowing the importance of every ball and while Srinath's luck changed late in his spell for him. Prasad wasn't so lucky continuing to beat the bat. An out of sorts Mark Waugh, a flashing Ponting and a trapped in front Steve Waugh back in the pavilion offered a remote chance of victory.
Gilchrist chanced his arm in the quest for boundaries and was a dangerous proposition with that intention. Martyn and Symonds had plenty to do on entry, with the Aussies teetering, but what Tendulkar was certain to need was Ganguly to extract as much seam as Symonds did. Ironically, it turned out to be Symonds who put paid to that fear, taking full toll of Ganguly's first over striking two brilliant fours.
Tension played it's part in another bowler dominated match and two half chances weren't accepted at this late stage of the inning. Both Symonds and Martyn offered them but continued to attack as the field necessarily stayed up and a late flurry of four's by the man of the match Symonds, further demoralised a flagging Indian spirit.
Victory by five wickets once again does the Indian side no justice because they fought better than that and maybe deserved better, but every little thing in a day must go well for you, if you're to beat the World Cup Champs in their current form. It is now, that India has to produce it's finest summer performances, if they are to curtail the headstart they have given the other two participants. Their best chance may be to ensure they don't lose again to Pakistan in the hope Australia does the same, because the dominance Australia has over them, looks as if it will take more time than they have in this tournament to break down.