The Australian bowlers made the Indian batsmen look like a set of novices on Friday in the three-nation ODI Series. The home team needed 36.3 overs to bundle out its rival for just 100 runs. India hit back through lion-hearted paceman Javagal Srinath. But the weak total restricted any scope for scripting a stunning victory. Australia won by five wickets. The Sydney pitch offered considerable bounce. Australia picked no spinner for this match. Leg spinner Stuart McGill was included in the list of 13 players in place of an injured Shane Warne, but Australia chose to field pacemen Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and medium-pacers Damien Fleming, Andrew Symonds and Shane Lee.
McGrath and Symonds bagged four wickets each while the Lee brothers (Brett and Shane) got a wicket each. Sachin Tendulkar won the toss and decided to open the innings with his famous partner Sourav Ganguly. V V S Laxman had opened with Ganguly in the earlier two matches. Today, he was pushed to the number three slot. The Tendulkar-Ganguly pair that had given several rousing starts in the history of ODIs, did no wonder on Friday. McGrath foxed both openers with superbly controlled outswingers, and wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist accepted the snicks with a fine sense of anticipation.
Soon after, McGrath found a huge gap between Laxman's bat and body with an in-cutter. The ball went on to shatter the stumps. That left India at 18 for 3 in 10.1 overs. Jacob Martin and Ajit Agarkar missed this match due to injury and were replaced by Debang Gandhi and Nikhil Chopra. Gandhi arrived at 18 for three and left at 29 for 4 (13.2). He drove Brett Lee into the hands of mid-off fielder Michael Bevan. It was thus all left on the shoulders of Rahul Dravid and Robin Singh to take India to the land of respectability. But this pair failed to exhibit the needed technique and temperament to do so.
Robin Singh was the first to go. He guided a ball from Shane Lee, rather instinctively, into the hands of Damien Martyn in the slips (71 for 5 in 26.2). Three runs later, India suffered two successive blows. Andrew Symonds, rated as an ODI specialist, unleashed those two stunners dismissing Dravid (lbw) and Anil Kumble (c Gilchrist) off successive deliveries (74 for 7 in 27.4). McGrath came on for his second spell to send back Sameer Dighe (82 for 8) and the moment India reached the 100-mark, Symonds repeated the magic. He got Chopra and Venkatesh Prasad off successive balls.
McGrath got his 150th ODI wicket when he dismissed Tendulkar. Gilchrist got his 100th catch when he accepted Kumble's snick. India was defending a poor total. Yet Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad began on a grand note. Srinath got rid of Mark Waugh (lbw) and Prasad had Ponting caught in the slips by Laxman (29 for 2 in 10 overs). At that juncture, a heavy spell of rain drove the players to the pavilion. Play resumed after about 15 minutes. Srinath brought cheer to India in the 15th and 17th overs by removing Gilchrist, Michael Bevan and Steve Waugh to make the score 59 for five (16.2) Gilchrist fell to Dravid and Bevan to Kumble, both at gully. In his next over, Srinath trapped Steve Waugh leg before to kindle the enthusiasm of his colleagues. But at 19 overs (63 for 5) Srinath had already completed his quota of 10 overs (four wickets for 30 runs).
Venkatesh Prasad played the supporting role as if to the manner born. But his quota too was complete at the 20th over. With Srinath and Prasad away from the firing line, the sixth wicket pair of Damien Martyn and Andrew Symonds began to breathe comfortably and saw Australia through in the fifth ball of the 27th over. Saturday is a rest day. On Sunday, Australia will play Pakistan in Melbourne.