Australia recovers to post a big total as Michael Clarke belts Indian bowlers
Bangalore: Michael Clarke continues to gallop on dollops of ability. He is quick of hands and feet. He also dares the opposition.
The 26-year-old New South Welshman was just a stroke away from his third ODI hundred, when he dumped off-spinner Ramesh Powar into the mid-wicket stands, over the man waiting on the boundary. Soon he clenched his fists and the crowd, cutting across barriers, applauded.
This Clarke flirts with danger. On the cricketing highway, his is a ride high on octane.
When India batted Sachin Tendlukar was trapped leg-before by left-arm paceman Mitchell Johnson for a duck. India was nine for one in 2.4 overs when rain interrupted play. The game, despite the best efforts of the groundstff, had to be abandoned.
Clarke’s 132-ball 130 (10x4, 3x6) and Australia’s recovery from 18 for two to an imposing 307 for seven was also a statement on the inadequacy of the Indian bowling to create the pressure in the middle overs and deliver at the ‘death’.
Australia gathered a whopping 124 runs in the last 15 overs, 87 of them in the last 10. The bowlers, with the exception of Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan, struggled with their line. And on a bigger ground, the Indian fielding, that was stretched, did not back the bowlers.
Indeed, India could not maintain stress on the opposition in the first Future Series ODI, a day/night game, at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Saturday.
The host needs to find specialists for the death overs in a form of limited-overs cricket that is more comprehensive and demanding.
Consistent yorker-length balls were missing. A few of them, that were attempted, turned out to be misdirected.
To make matters worse for the Indians, Clarke innovated and created.
There was no better stroke than a delicate glide off Pathan that gave the third man no chance.
Clarke’s on-side shots reveal his balance. He has soft hands and sure touch.
Dhoni missed a stumping when Clarke, on 31, charged Pathan.
The Australian made the Indians pay on a venue where he had conjured a Test century on debut in 2004.
Australia’s recovery — Clarke added 144 off 153 balls for the fifth wicket with Brad Haddin and 73 off 49 deliveries with new all-round hope James Hopes — underlined the depth in its ranks.
Haddin (69, 83b, 7x4, 1x6), whose specialist job is to ‘keep’, is also a compact batsman with an uncomplicated technique. Hopes’s 25-ball 37 oozed promise.
The ICC new rules — free hit off a front-foot no-ball, an additional fielder outside the circle in the second and third batches of the Power Play overs and the mandatory ball change after the 35 overs being prominent among them — were introduced in this game.
An extra fielder in the deep encourages the use of spinners in the Power Play overs, but the Indian think-tank picked only Powar.
Harbhajan Singh, the other off-spinner, watched the proceedings from the dressing room.
Interestingly, when the ball was changed after the 35th over, Powar struggled.
Even a ball considered sufficiently old to be picked for the last 15 overs is unlikely to be as soft as the one used in match play for 35 overs.
And the spinners, generally, require a softer ball in the latter stages of an innings.
There was not much reverse swing for the pacemen, although Sreesanth achieved some conventional swing. Again the ball needs to be sufficiently old for it to bend the other way.
The harder sphere actually enabled the batsmen to find more pace on the ball. This enhanced scoring.
Perhaps the captains will be more innovative with Power Play overs once they comprehend the dynamics of the rule changes.
On Saturday Dhoni seemed to be suffering from a Twenty20 hangover. There were too many bowling changes.
Removing Powar after a four-over stint and then bringing him on in the end overs was baffling.
Sreesanth’s vibrancy makes him a compelling competitor. This was an afternoon when he cut out the antics and focussed on the job on hand. Aggression does not require theatrics, nor does talent.
Gilchrist won the toss but Australia was jolted early.
The stand-in skipper found Yuvraj — the wrong man to find actually — at point off left-armer Zaheer Khan.
Brad Hodge appeared and disappeared, Sreesanth winning a leg-before decision. Sreesanth bowled a fuller length, got the ball to swing.
He also lured the threatening Matthew Hayden into a crude heave and surprised Andrew Symonds with a slower, fuller delivery. Sreesanth is working on changes of pace.
India’s new ball pairing of Zaheer and Sreesanth was a left-right one which is a time-tested ploy, while R.P. Singh struggled with his line. He was flicked and whipped on the on-side by Clarke.
There are lessons to be learnt for the Indians from the Australian innings — this includes running between the wickets.
Australia: A. Gilchrist c Yuvraj b Zaheer 12, M. Hayden b Sreesanth 34, B. Hodge lbw b Sreesanth 0, M. Clarke (run out) 130, A. Symonds lbw b Sreesanth 7, B. Haddin st Dhoni b Yuvraj 69, J. Hopes c Tendulkar b Zaheer 37, B. Lee (not out) 0; Extras (b-4, lb-1, w-11, nb-2) 18; Total (for seven wkts. in 50 overs) 307.
Fall of wickets: 1-14 (Gilchrist), 2-18 (Hodge), 3-78 (Hayden), 4-90 (Symonds), 5-234 (Haddin), 6-307 (Hopes), 7-307 (Clarke).
India bowling: Zaheer 10-0-64-2, Sreesanth 10-0-55-3, R.P. Singh 10-0-67-0, Pathan 8-0-38-0, Powar 6-1-50-0, Yuvraj 6-0-28-1.
India: G. Gambhir (not out) 4, S. Tendulkar lbw b Johnson 0, I. Pathan (not out) 0; Extras (b-4, w-1) 5; Total (for one wkt. in 2.4 overs) 9.
Fall of wicket: 1-1 (Tendulkar).
Australia bowling: Lee 1.4-1-4-0; Johnson 1-0-1-1.