Not a tie this time around
India were knocked out of the tri-series in Malaysia
when Australia won the final league game by 18 runs. West Indies
will contest the final on Sunday, and both teams have beaten each other in this tournament.
Superb bowling by India and some terrible running by Australia's batsmen till the 36th over had meant that Australia were in real trouble at 132/6. But Haddin and Hogg feasted on offerings by Sehwag and Mongia. In fact Dravid erred majorly by putting India in a situation where Agarkar wouldn't complete his quota of overs. But Australia were all out for 213, the last 4 wickets added nearly 100 runs in around 17 overs. Glenn McGrath was unbeaten on 0, and can rightfully be accused of batting for his average which stands at 3.78. He has 106 runs and 332 wickets in one-dayers
India started horribly, continuing a trend which reared its head last season
. In the 13 matches where the batsmen batted for some length of time
since I wrote about the top order woes, on eight occasions, 3 or more wickets have gone down for < 100 runs on the board or within the first 12-15 overs. So there's a serious problem with the Indian top order.
In any case, Tendulkar and Sehwag were back in the pavillion by the 5th over. Dravid and Kaif hung around for a while and got out in the same over. The asking rate was never going to be a problem, wickets in hand was the issue for India. All Australia needed to do was get into a situation where the 5-6 wickets were down with 50-60 left to get and victory would be in sight. Mongia and Raina rebuilt the innings, but Raina once again got a nice 20-odd and was out. Out of his 12 double digit scores in one-dayers, including today's
, he has only 2 fifties to his name.
Dhoni and Mongia then put on nearly 50 and Ponting would certainly have been worried. But Dhoni's slog didn't clear the rope. Agarkar and Harbhajan failed to worry the scorers and it was always going to be uphill once those two were dismissed. Although Mongia batted well, his judgement of singles at the end was very questionable. But his performance would mean that Yuvraj, Kaif and Raina are in danger of being dropped more often. But what was galling was that with 4 wickets in hand, India needed 38 runs from 11 overs. Easy, right? Not after Agarkar and Harbhajan got out. Even then, all Mongia needed to ensure was that all 50 overs were played out and the win would have been possible.
A lot of Indian cricket supporters will hide behind some questionable umpiring which possibly accounted for Dravid and Dhoni. But if they did it, they're just imitating the game's governing body's attitude towards most issues
. The fact of the matter is that a chaseable target was not attained. If the batting clicks, the bowling doesn't and vice versa.
The batting stats for the series so far tell a story. Haddin 157 runs, all of them crucial, Hussey 122, Hayden 103 and Ponting 77. India's top run-getter is Tendulkar with 222 runs. The next best are Raina with 72 and Mongia with today's 63. Dhoni had 43, Dravid 39, Sehwag 28, Kaif made 22 and Yuvraj had two ducks for dinner in the two games he played. The bowlers did an admirable job, recovering superbly after the hiding in the rain-reduced game against West Indies, knocking over Australia twice for sub-250 totals and defending 162 superbly against West Indies a couple of days ago.
Interestingly enough, Australia've had their own problems with the top order batting. Watson and Clarke (sounds like the discoverers of the structure of DNA
!) got Australia to 240-odd against India in the first game between the sides. Haddin and Hussey bailed them out a few days ago against West Indies. Haddin and Hogg did it today. Then again, maybe it's something about the pitch. The trend has been towards low scoring games. It certainly makes for thrilling cricket. I'd be very disappointed and surprised if the final saw 300-odd runs scored by both teams.
On a different note, if India had scored 18 more runs today, they'd have played out a tie (and still got knocked out of the finals) exactly twenty years
after the second tied test