Colombo: After a crushing 90-run over England that carried them into the Super Eights on a high, India were brought crashing down to earth by Australia in Colombo on Friday. After three high-octane matches in round two of the ICC World Twenty20, the fourth was one-way traffic as Australia knocked off a target of 141 with a whopping nine wickets and 31 balls in hand.
As widely expected, India dropped Virender Sehwag to accommodate an extra bowler and the move proved a poor one: the batsmen struggled to put up 140 and none of the five front-line bowlers managed a wicket as Watson and Warner launched pummeled India into submission.
The tone for this crushing was set in the field when Australia – led by Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Watson – kept India on a leash. George Bailey rotated his bowlers constantly in an attempt to unsettle India’s batsmen – only two men bowled two overs in a row – and the extra pace in Australia’s attack proved tough for the batsmen to handle. India’s other big problem was a lack of partnerships: the best of their innings was the 35 that Sehwag’s replacement as opener and innings top-scorer Irfan Pathan added with Virat Kohli, proving how well Australia did to keep attacking.
After a punchy start in which he looked to have cut out the dab to third man which has been a major reason for his recent misfortunes, Gautam Gambhir was run out for 17 as Cummins displayed some nifty footwork. Irfan was joined by Kohli who played a few lovely drives as India took 50 off the Powerplay overs, but pace did for Kohli in the eighth over. Looking to pull Cummins, Kohli got a top edge that was well held by a tumbling Daniel Christian running across from mid-off.
Australia kept it short to Yuvraj Singh too, and a mistimed pull off the first ball of a new spell from Watson saw the struggling left-hander pick out deep midwicket for 8. Five balls later, Watson capped a terrific over when Irfan chipped to short midwicket. One ball later, Starc beat Rohit Sharma for pace and snuck the ball through gap between bat and pad. In seven deliveries, India had lost three wickets for four runs.
They never really recovered from 74 for 5. An inability to find the boundary meant the run rate was headed only one way, and some accurate pace bowling backed by aggressive fielding further suffocated India.
MS Dhoni ate up 21 deliveries for his 15, an innings that ended off the final ball of a three-run 16th over. Having failed to score off four deliveries, Dhoni drilled the sixth to Bailey at extra cover to give the excellent Cummins his second wicket. That left Suresh Raina to try and finish with a flurry but there was no real late surge to speak of. Raina and R Ashwin struck a few boundaries but failed to dominate, and Watson finished with 3 for 34.
Australia’s chase was held up by a brief drizzle in the opening over, after which the openers got stuck into India’s bowling. Warner used his crease well to create room and cut and pull with power, while Watson opened up from a slow start with two muscled sixes off Ashwin in an expensive fifth over. Watson then launched a rude assault on Piyush Chawla, whose first over began and ended with sixes, and Harbhajan Singh was carted for a couple sixes in his second over by Warner.
The massacre never let up. Watson sped past fifty in a 19-run over from Irfan, and when Dhoni tossed the ball to Kohli the burly Australian collected his seventh six. Watson’s bullish innings ended when he punched Yuvraj to cover for a 42-ball 72, but by then Australia needed just eight runs from 39 balls. The end came soon enough, with Warner unbeaten on 63 off 41.