Sydney: India's hopes of making it to the CB Series final are hanging by a thread after they suffered another massive defeat – by 87 runs – at the hands of Australia at the SCG on Sunday.
With four losses in seven games, India are at the bottom of the points table and they will not only have to win Tuesday’s encounter against Sri Lanka with a bonus point but also have to wait for the result of the last league match between Australia and Sri Lanka, which the latter should lose if India are to seal their progression.
It was another inexplicable batting display by India as they failed to chase down an Australian total of 253. None of their famed batsmen could get going as their innings finished at 165 in 39.3 overs. Australia, on the other hand, have qualified for the finals following the win.
As has been the case throughout the summer, Ben Hilfenhaus provided Australia the breakthrough by taking a return catch of Virender Sehwag (5), whose poor form with the bat continued. Sachin Tendulkar played some pretty shots before he fell prey to a moment of madness. The veteran batsman responded to a quick call for a single by Gautam Gambhir (23) but was well short of his crease at the striker's end and was run out for 14. Tendulkar showed his dismay as Brett Lee seemed to have obstructed his way by extending his follow through, but per the rules he had to walk back to the pavilion.
India's middle order then came a cropper. First it was Virat Kohli (21) who failed to keep his flick down and was caught at midwicket by Daniel Christian. Later it was Gambhir, who ended his painful 48-ball stay at the crease by playing on an away going delivery from Clint McKay. Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja justified critics questioning their stay in the Indian playing XI. Both scored eight runs each before leaving India in a deep lurch.
MS Dhoni had consumed 49 balls for his 14 before being trapped in front by Hilfenhaus. R Ashwin (26) and Irfan Pathan (22) hit a few lusty blows, but it was always going to be well short of what was required.
Earlier, the Indian bowlers had done well to restrict Australia to 253 after they had been well placed to reach 300. Umesh Yadav, who gave away 20 runs in his first two overs, came back strongly in his second spell to take the important wickets of Matthew Wade (56) and David Hussey (54), who were both caught behind. The wicket of Wade came at the right time for the Indians as he and Hussey were taking the game away from them with a partnership of 94.
Praveen Kumar made a good return to the side, providing two early breakthroughs. First he had the stand-in Australian skipper Shane Watson (1) caught at mid-on, and followed it up with the wicket of an in-form Peter Forrest (7).
The fall of wickets at the other end hardly affected David Warner, who continued batting in his aggressive style. He punished the Indian bowlers and brought up the Australian 100, along with David Hussey who joined Warner after the wicket of his brother Michael (10).
The dismissal of Warner gave India an opening but the magnificent stand for the fifth wicket between David Hussey and Wade didn't allow them to claw their way back. After an injury to Irfan, who was involved in a terrible collision with Raina while trying to take Warner's catch, Dhoni opted for an unusual choice of Sehwag's offspin in death overs.
Dhoni's gamble paid off until the 50th over when he went for 13 runs. In spite of that, he was the most successful Indian bowler, taking three wickets for 43.