Come to think of it, it took all of 15 minutes for the Guwahati one-dayer to be decided. Whatever happened after that – the fightback by Praveen Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja and the brief period when Harbhajan Singh snaffled two quick wickets – proved totally irrelevant at the end of the day. And that was because, as skipper MS Dhoni candidly admitted, India had dug themselves out into such a big hole at the start that there was no way to come out of it.
Dhoni placed faith in his experienced batters, expecting them to see the team through the tough initial period after winning the toss. However, their technical deficiencies were embarrassingly exposed against classy new ball bowling. So much was expected of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, but both were undone by the guile of Mitchell Johnson, who once again proved that when there is enough in the pitch, he is among the most dangerous bowlers to face. Sachin was due for a failure after his marathon effort in the last game and while Yuvraj Singh can consider himself unlucky, the same cannot be said about Suresh Raina. He just seems to be waiting for the surprise short ball and in the process loses concentration. This is not the first time that the renowned batting line-up has failed under tricky conditions, so it definitely doesn’t augur well with the 2011 World Cup in sight.
On a positive note, it was nice to see the lower order putting up a brave effort once again. Jadeja showed that he had learnt his lessons well from the previous games, whereas Kumar’s performance with the bat will give India the choice of playing an extra bowler, if needed, in the near future. Harbhajan failed for a second consecutive time, but he has played a couple of gritty knocks in the series. That said, India need his services more as a bowling all-rounder and not vice-versa. India’s bowling effort at Guwahati wasn’t too bad. Munaf Patel started well and Harbhajan claimed a couple of confidence-gaining wickets on a spinning track. However, considering the upsetting batting failure, the bowlers could do little but retrieve some pride by delaying the win.
The Aussies, on the other hand, would consider themselves lucky to have lost the toss as it gave their bowlers the opportunity to exploit the early morning moisture. They were already on a high following the close win at Hyderabad so this gift from Dhoni was like an icing on the cake. And they received it gleefully. After Johnson had done the early damage, Doug Bollinger demonstrated why he is rated so highly by Ponting. The five key wickets Bollinger grabbed in the middle of the innings ensured that India’s hopes of a miraculous recovery were dashed and virtually sealed India’s faith in the series. The impressive aspect of his performance was that he did not attempt anything out of the blue, sticking instead to the basics of line and length.
At various stages in the series India had their moments, but failed to grab than. And so it has to be said that the better side won in the end.
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