Picture perfect conditions made for batting, confronts teams at the MCG these days and the Australians lost 2 crunch wickets, navigating the shiny new ball. Ponting and Bevan not only steadied, but dominated, from their precarious position. Bevan who looked to further accelerate was out caught at mid on forcing a Singh delivery from a good length and when the skipper was run out by a mile. Ponting was nowhere near finished though and he lasted until the 45th over for his , 6th ODI century, he fell victim to a good slowie from Srinath.
Even though the Indians made better efforts at improving their diabolical summer over rates, Tendulkar got there this time, although he had to employ all his part-time options to scrape home. The early breakthroughs were the highlights in a batting dominant innings for the visitors, while the fielding was decent without major blemish, but needing a little brilliance to spark something extra.
The huge Melbourne crowd hoped for a late Christmas gift of Tendulkar opening, what had to be a spirited chase, but not only did they have to sit through the listed openers but almost unbearably the inclusion of Dighe who surely shouldn't have been asked to protect batsmen of such class. Number 3 was where Australia stamped it's authority on this match, through the gutsy aggression of it's temporary vice-captain Ponting, but India didn't learn. If Tendulkar, however, takes on the arm of Shane Lee regularly it might not matter where he bats and his dismissal lumped mountains of work onto the shoulders of Dravid and Ganguly who were starting to flow.
Their partnership of just over 100 set some sort of platform to launch from, but that launching had to be done in the main by those two. Ganguly was tiring and there was no better evidence of that when he didn't ground his bat. The non-grounding of the bat wasn't explained to the playful but volatile Indian section of the outer, who disappointingly stopped the game for 15 minutes by unloading every bottle they had, onto the field. Dravid battled away with good intention but his style needed a more established aggressor to accompany his correctness as he works to regain his World Cup magic. His 60 almost convinced me of a form reversal but lacked boundaries to get the bowlers a little more thoughtful.
The rest was familiar for the tail, Australians giving them nothing easy, McGrath firing in straight, clever changes of pace with an aging ball very difficult to define from the pitch colour and the fielding athleticism and accuracy deadly. This fielding pressure may well be a crucial factor in separating these combatants this month. It's hard to believe Australia getting more efficient, which is something in India's favour.
Australia coped very efficiently without Warne, with many part-time bowling options for Waugh to deploy. You may say, that the Australians are on fire, now that their batting has clicked, with quality all down their order, but as yet India hasn't tested their opponent's mettle to any degree. This has to be the goal of the Indians in their quest to improve further, in the next episode, in Sydney on Friday.