Mumbai: Damien Martyn led the Australian batting onslaught with a rollicking century as the world champions posted a challenging 286 for eight in their allotted 50 overs in the day-night triangular cricket series match against India on Saturday.
Electing to bat, the determined Australians turned on the heat from the very first over against the hosts and later Martyn (100) gave ample proof of his batting skills to steer his team to a commanding total. The dashing Adam Gilchrist (41), Andrew Symonds (48), Ricky Ponting (31) and Michael Bevan (42) were the other notable contributors for the Aussies who capitalised on some wayward bowling by the Indians, who now have to score at a stiff 5.8 runs per over for recording their second successive win over the world champions in a week. The Indians, who had defeated the Australians by 37 runs in Gwalior, never really looked like containing the Kangaroos after Gilchrist's early blitzkrieg provided the perfect launching pad for the assault at the fully-packed Wankhede stadium.
The visitors could have put up a few more runs on the board but for a dramatic last over by Ajit Agarkar(4/37) which saw four wickets falling, including that of centurion Martyn. The Australians lost in-form opener Mathew Hayden for a first-ball duck in Zaheer Khan's erratic first overs that saw as many as four wides as the left-arm seamer struggled to control the swing. The lanky Hayden was taken by surprise by a rising delivery and offered a simple catch to Yuvraj Singh at point, much to the jubilation of the home team. But the early dismissal of Hayden, who holds the Test record of highest individual score, did not deter the world champions from unleashing an array of strokes with the hard-hitting Adam Gilchrist being particularly severe on Zaheer who looked totally off-colour in his first spell.
Gilchrist virtually tore the bowling to shreds in the company of his captain Ricky Ponting as the visitors raced to the 50-mark in just five overs to push the home team on the backfoot. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who was introduced into the attack early on a track that gave some assistance to the slow bowlers, evicted the dangerous Gilchrist just when he was threatening to break loose. The left-handed opener attempted to cut the ball but failed to time the shot properly and Mohammad Kaif latched on to a brilliant catch in the cover region. Gilchrist slammed eight boundaries during his 30-ball 41.
The Indian captain Rahul Dravid surprisingly let part-time spinner Virender Sehwag share the new ball with Zaheer. But the ploy backfired completely as he conceded 14 runs in his first over, forcing Dravid to bring in Harbhajan Singh Ponting, who began quite cautiously, also returned to the pavilion soon after, falling prey to Ajit Agarkar in his very first over as the Aussies slipped to 94 for three. Agarkar, who was brought into the attack in the 14th over, trapped Ponting (31 off 31 balls) leg before wicket with a ball that came in sharply.
Despite the loss of three wickets, the two new batsmen Damien Martin and Andrew Symonds maintained a brisk scoring rate and were prompt to despatch the loose deliveries to the boundary. The strongly built Martyn was the more aggressive of the two batsmen as he struck some delightful boundaries on both sides of the wicket to consolidate the position for the world champions who looked eager to make amends for the Gwalior defeat. Symonds picked up leg spinner Anil Kumble for special treatment clobbering him for two boundaries in the same over and then lifted Yuvraj Singh for a mighty six over extra cover to take the Australian score beyond the 150-mark in the 26th over.
The fourth wicket pair stitched 78 runs before Yuvraj provided the breakthrough by getting rid of the belligerent Symonds for a 59-ball 48 that contained four boundaries and a six. Symonds tried to pull Yuvraj but only managed to top-edge the ball for Harbhajan Singh to take a well judged catch at deep square leg. Martyn, who played second fiddle to Ponting in the record third-wicket stand in the World Cup final, took control after Symond's departure. Stylish yet aggressive, Martyn showed improvisation but without taking risks.
The West Australian stepped on the accelerator from the 42nd over when he hoisted Kumble over the midwicket boundary, and his flat-batted drive off Zaheer Khan was a testimony to his confidence. He reached his fifth One-day hundred with a single off the last ball of the 49th over, just before Agarkar produced one his best overs at the death.
The Mumbai seamer, who had admirable control over his line and length throughout the evening, troubled the batsmen who found his reverse swing difficult to negotiate. In the first ball off the 50th over, he yorked Martyn before deceiving Bevan with a slower one two balls later. The fifth wicket partnership between Martyn and Bevan fetched 111 runs from 117 balls for Australia. Michael Clarke fell to Tendulkar's intelligent throw at the non-striker's end. Bichel went for a big one off the final delivery but was bowled all over.