Keen contest on the cards at Wankhede

Published: Friday, October 31, 2003, 19:46 [IST]
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Mumbai:Having dented the Australian pride with a comfortable win in Gwalior, India may have to brace themselves up for a likely backlash from the world champions when they meet for the second time in the triangular series One-day match on Saturday. The Indians will be eager to capitalise on the second-string Australian bowling attack and keep the momentum going in what promises to be pulsating day-and-night encounter at the Wankhede stadium. After a disappointing start to the series when they were clobbered by Sachin Tendulkar and Venkatsai Laxman for a 37-run day-night defeat at Gwalior last week, the Aussies seemed to have got their campaign back on track with an eight-wicket demolition of arch-rivals New Zealand in Faridabad on Wednesday. The home team was leading the points table with eight points from two matches and a victory against the formidable Australians will help them consolidate their position for a berth in the final.

The world champions, on the other hand, were just one point behind the Indians and Ricky Ponting and his men were unlikely to give anything on a platter to the hosts. New Zealand, the other team in the fray, ere at the bottom of the table with three points. What must have been particularly pleasing to captain Ponting was the performance of new ball bowlers Brad Williams and Nathan Bracken who sliced through the Kiwi batting line-up in devastating fashion in Faridabad. Coming in as replacements for frontline fast bowlers Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee who are out due to injuries, Bracken and Williams have proved Ponting right when he said on arrival that the fringe players of the three-time world champions were as good as the first eleven.

The Aussie pacers got a lot of assistance from the Faridabad track and could find the going much tougher at the Wankhede stadium that was likely to favour the batsmen. The victory must have given a lot of confidence to the Indians and captain Rahul Dravid, standing-in for Sourav Ganguly who is recovering from an abscess on his left thigh, handled the team well. Dravid made some intelligent bowling changes to stem the Aussie onslaught and was flexible with the batting order, by promoting Ajit Agarkar in the slog overs.

"Flexibility is very important in One-day cricket and the captain will decide over the batting order for tomorrow also as per the situation" Indian coach John Wright said. "Like the captains change or shuffle the bowlers around, even in batting order one should have flexibility which could lead to the success of the team like it happened in Gwalior, Wright said. It would be interesting to see how Tendulkar and Co treat Williams and the rest of the Australian attack whom they punished in the last match. A win here tomorrow would add credibility to the previous win and soothe further their psyche that might still be haunted by the ghosts of the humiliating World Cup final loss.

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