Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2000, 5:30 [IST]
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Ricky Ponting
AFP Photo
Shane Lee
AFP Photo
Robin and Dravid
Indian batsman Robin Singh (L) and Rahul Dravid (R) walk away dejected from their fans after the Indian fans pelted the ground with plastic bottles delaying play because they were unhappy with the decision which saw Indian batsman Saurav Ganguly run-out at the MCG in Melbourne 12 January 2000._AFP Photo
Australian players sit on the ground and watch the grounds staff clean rubbish off the ground after Indian fans pelted the ground with plastic bottles delaying play because they were unhappy with the decision which saw Indian batsman Saurav Ganguly run-out at the MCG in Melbourne._AFP Photo
Crowd menace
AFP PhotoIndia did not possess the needed power and method to challenge the all-round skills of this Australian side and suffered its second successive defeat in the three-nation ODI Series in Melbourne on Wednesday. Chasing a victory target of 270 in 50 overs, India finished at 241 for six. A century by Sourav Ganguly went in vain while a 121-ball knock of 115 by Australia's Ricky Ponting featured the home team's victory. The idea of sending V V S Laxman to open the innings with Sourav Ganguly failed again. And when Saameer Dighe the wicket-keeper was promoted to Number 3 spot, it was clear that India was asking for trouble.

Neither Laxman nor Dighe could play their respective role in the desired fashion. A superb outswinger from Glenn McGrath lured Laxman and wicket-keeper Gilchrist did no mistake (7 for one). Dighe wasted 25 balls to make three runs. His wild pull-drive off Damien Fleming got the top edge and Mark Waugh in the slips took the skier gleefully. Thus the famous opening pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Ganguly were together at 31 for 2 in 11.4 overs.

The two put up a brave front. They accelerated the run-rate against some imaginative 'line-and-length' bowling (37 runs off five overs). But tragedy struck when Tendulkar chose to take a dicey second run. A brilliant throw from Shane Lee to Gilchrist ended Tendulkar's tenure (68 for 3). At last, Rahul Dravid who has been struggling in vain to live up to his reputation and class got into his customary mood today. Dravid played the second fiddle to Ganguly who was performing in grand style. The two progressed through methodical efficiency.

No doubt the tight length maintained by the bowlers and the splendid efforts by the fielders prevented them from maintaining an impressive run-rate. Anyway their perseverance kept India's hope alive. The pair added 109 runs in 23.4 overs before Ganguly was run out. Ganguly, who had recorded his tenth ODI century (100 in 127 balls with 10 fours) was beaten by an accurate throw by Andrew Symonds.

The third umpire was consulted in this regard and Ganguly was declared out as his bat was in the air even as the stumps were shattered. A section of the crowd became impulsive and threw all sorts of missiles onto the ground. Normalcy was restored after 17 minutes. At that juncture the score read 177 for 4 in 39.2. With Ganguly's departure, all Indian hopes were destroyed, so to say.

For, to get another 93 runs in 10.4 overs looked impossible for India against a rival that excelled in all departments of the game. The lone consolation was that India played out all the 50 overs, losing only six wickets. Dravid made 60 (85 balls) and Robin Singh remained not out on 33. Earlier, Ricky Pointing celebrated his elevation as Australia's vice-captain with a blistering century. The home team lost both its openers Mark Waugh (off Srinath) and Adam Gilchrist (off Agarkar) in four overs for 19 runs. Both fell to smart catches taken by Laxman at second slip. Ponting, the number three batsman, set a terrific pattern.

He found an enterprising third wicket partner in Michael Bevan, one of the best ODI players. The two upset the rhythm of the Indian attack and amassed 99 runs in 17.4 overs. Bevan made 41 before Agarkar took his lofted off drive off Robin Singh. Steve Waugh and Ponting looked all set for yet another long association. But Tendulkar ended the partnership at 156 with an accurate throw to wicket-keeper Dighe. Ponting was dashing down the wicket for a second run. Waugh sighted his partner only in the nick of time and ran towards the striker's end. But he just could not beat Tendulkar's throw (156 for 4 in 30 overs). Ponting and Damien Martyn dominated the next 15 overs before three wickets fell in quick succession (234 for 7 in 45.3).

Tendulkar snapped up two fine catches (Ponting and Martyn). Robin Singh effected a run out to dismiss Andrew Symonds. The next pair of Shane Lee (22 not out) and Damien Fleming (14 not out) did extremely well to add 35 runs off the last 4.3 overs without being separated. In the final analysis, the brisk effort by this pair must be considered as significant. Ponting got the 'man of the match' award.

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