The ‘Maximum City’ woke up to a steady shower. The rains never stopped and a venue that had geared up for its first One-Day International remained damp while some diehard fans waved the Indian flag.

At 5 p.m., the seventh and final match of the Hero Honda Cup series was called off at the Dr. D.Y. Patil Stadium here on Wednesday. The signs of a wash-out were too obvious even at 3 p.m. as the television crew began to roll back their cables while the giant screen beamed the satellite image of Cyclone Phyan whirling across the Arabian Sea.

Australia had already won the series at 4-2 after a clinical display at Guwahati on Sunday. The last game here, presented an equal opportunity for the visitor to reiterate its dominance and for M.S. Dhoni’s men to retrieve dented egos but the weather gods decided otherwise.

On October 21, Ricky Ponting and his merry band had touched base at Mumbai and spoke about the need to play at their best to defeat an Indian team that remained daunting at home. The series between the top two ODI teams enjoyed a cracking start at Vadodara where tail-enders Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar nearly upset Ponting’s plans.

Missed opportunities

India however lost the match by four runs and it was a fallacy that repeated itself in another close match at Hyderabad despite Sachin Tendulkar’s gut-wrenching 175 as the Men in Blue lost by three runs. Add to it the inability to get past Australia’s 250 at Mohali and the shocking 27 for five at Guwahati that inevitably ruined the Indian hopes of drawing level and eventually wresting the trophy.

The Indian batting failed to live up to its billing. “Our batting was not consistent,’’ Dhoni had said at Guwahati.

And the numbers do tell a tale. The six regular batsmen — Dhoni, Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina — aggregated 1140 runs. These are low returns indeed from blue chip batsmen with a collective yield of over 40,000 ODI runs.

Take away Dhoni’s 124 at Nagpur and Tendulkar’s 175 at Hyderabad and the batting numbers become even more anaemic.

Compare this with an Australian line-up that lost Tim Paine midway through the tour but yet racked up 1198 runs through just five batsmen — Michael Hussey (313), Ponting, Shane Watson, Cameron White and Shaun Marsh. The Australians enjoyed just one century — Marsh’s 112 at Hyderabad — but had a better share of critical partnerships.

Bowlers too struggle

The Indian bowling too struggled as Harbhajan Singh remained the highest wicket-taker with eight but with an average of 33.87 and an economy rate of 4.51 he was unable to choke the Australian batsmen.

Among the speedsters, Ashish Nehra bagged seven wickets but leaked 6.08 runs per over. To add to the woes, Ishant Sharma ebbed away while left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja was sorted out and Praveen Kumar failed to make an impact.

The Australian attack though presented a better picture despite missing Brett Lee after the first game. Peter Siddle bowled a tight last over at Vadodara, Doug Bollinger grabbed nine wickets in four games, Shane Watson regained his confidence belatedly to top up with 10 wickets and a below-par Mitchell Johnson (nine scalps) still found his spark at Guwahati.

As the damp dust settled at the D.Y. Patil Stadium, Indian cricket has more questions to answer in a season that began with the summary dismissals of bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad and fielding coach Robin Singh. The Sri Lankans are here and there is no time to pontificate.

PTI adds

Watson named Man of the Series

Australian all-rounder Shane Watson was awarded the man of the series.

Watson, who opened the innings, was third in the Australian run-scorers’ list behind vice-captain Michael Hussey (313)) and skipper Ricky Ponting (267) with 256 runs to his credit with an average of 42.66 per innings from six matches with 93 being his highest score.

The 28-year-old Queenslander also contributed with the ball by snaring 10 wickets, the highest among the Australians, at a strike rate of 22.

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