Awesome Aussies walk tall, pathetic Indians crumble

Published: Sunday, February 16, 2003, 1:24 [IST]
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Centurion: Jason Gillespie led a deadly Australian pace assault on India's shell- shocked batsmen to fire the defending champions to a nine-wicket victory in the World Cup group A match at Supersport Park on Saturday. Gillespie grabbed 3-13 from 10 superb overs and Brett Lee took 3-36 as the Indians were shot out for their lowest World Cup score of 125 before a packed house of 25,000, many of whom had flown in all the way from India to watch the high-profile game. Australia surpassed the meagre target with 27.4 overs to spare and record their second consecutive win in the preliminary league, having defeated India's arch- rivals Pakistan by 82 runs last Tuesday.

Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden put on 100 for the first wicket off just 18 overs, before Gilchrist was stumped off Anil Kumble for 48. Hayden returned unconquered on 45 and skipper Ricky Ponting made 24 not out to end a powerful display that will leave World Cup rivals uneasy. As the game headed for an early finish, disappointed fans vented their anger at Saurav Ganguly's men with jeers each time a fielder ran near the boundary line. The pathetic display by what some say is one of the best batting line-ups in the world follows its failure to last 50 overs in the opening match against minnows Netherlands. They now fell short of their previous lowest World Cup score of 158 against Australia at Trent Bridge in 1983 - the year India won the title.

Sachin Tendulkar was the only top order batsman to offer resistance, making a dour 36 as five other specialists failed to reach double figures. India was reduced to 80 for seven before tailenders Harbhajan Singh and Kumble showed team-mates how to bat with a 40-run stand for the eighth wicket. Harbhajan hit 28 off 32 balls, including an astonishing six over third man off Lee, while Kumble remained unbeaten on 16. "We were outplayed in every department. We need to pull our socks up. We just didn't put enough runs on the board and should have applied ourselves a lot better. That wicket was worth more than 125 runs," Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly said.

"There's still a lot of cricket left in this tournament. We need to win the next four games and carry bonus points into the Super Sixes," he said. "It's hard to explain why we've fallen off in recent months," Ganguly said during the lunch break. "It's not that we are not trying, but nothing is falling in place. Batting was our strong point, but it is letting the side down." India must now win all the three key games against Zimbabwe, England and Pakistan to ensure a place in the Super Six round. "We bowled very well and put the pressure on them," said Australian skipper Ricky Ponting.

A combination of reckless batting and devastating pace bowling saw India lose its first four wickets for 45 runs by the 15th over after Ganguly won the toss and elected to bat. Ganguly (9) and Virender Sehwag were caught behind off Lee slashing outside the off- stump. Rahul Dravid played Gillespie's first delivery on to his stumps, while Yuvraj Singh was given leg before off Glenn McGrath by Sri Lankan umpire Ashoka De Silva even though replays showed the ball hit the top of the pad. Gillespie earned his second wicket soon after when Mohammad Kaif hooked a short ball down Andrew Symonds' throat at deep square leg to make India 50-5.

At the stage Gillespie had 2-2 from three overs, building on McGrath's 1-23 from eight and Lee's 2-16 off six. Gillespie stopped the run flow by conceding just six runs in his next five overs before grabbing the wicket the Australians wanted more. Tendulkar, who faced 59 deliveries watching the batting collapse at the other end, went inside the line of the ball to flick, missed and was caught plumb in front of the wicket. "We decided before the game that Brett would take the new ball to see if he could rattle the batsmen," said Gillespie. "A couple of wickets fell early on and I just chipped in. It was vital to get Tendulkar out because he was looking good."

AFP Copyright AFP 2001

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