Clarke ton in vain, as rain wins

Australia resurrected their innings after they had slumped to 90-4, thanks to a 144 run partnership between Michael Clarke (130) and Brad Haddin (69). Helpful contributions from Matthew Hayden and a late innings offensive from James Hopes took Australia to an imposing score of 307-7 off their allocation.

When Mitchell Johnson surprised Sachin Tendulkar with an inswinger at pace, as India began their reply, the odds were heavily stacked in Australia’s favour to open the series with a victory. However, after only 2.4 overs of the Indian innings, the heavens opened and not another ball was to be bowled.

The weather was fine at the start of play, there was sunshine about and the temperatures were high, yet there was admittedly a fair amount of cloud around.

Ticket sales had gone well, as is generally the case with one-day cricket in India, so needless to say there was a packed house creating an exceptionally noisy atmosphere.

The pitch itself looked a good one for batsmen, and there were thoughts that there will be a fair amount of bounce and pace in it, however, as the game progressed there were signs of some indifferent bounce.

As for the teams, it had been well publicised that Australian captain Ricky Ponting was unfit, as was Mike Hussey, so chances were given to Brad Haddin, who was selected as a specialist batsman ahead of Adam Voges. Also, James Hopes was rewarded for some decent form in Pakistan with the ‘A’ side.

For India, the big guns had returned to the one-day side, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid all returned after opting out of the Twenty20 competition. Ramesh Powar was restored to the side, so too was opening bowler Zaheer Khan.

The new ODI rules were in force for this game, the most pertinent ones being any front foot no-ball resulting in a free hit the next ball, and the ball is now to be changed mandatorily after 34 overs. With regards the powerplays, the fielding side may choose either the second or third powerplay to exercise their right to have a third fielder outside the ring for the five over period.

Adam Gilchrist got the Australian innings off to a bright start, with two thumping boundaries, before he went after a ball from Zaheer with a distinct lack of footwork, that contributed to his downfall. He relied on his usually exemplory hand-eye co-ordination, but was never in a position to keep the ball down, as was presumably his intention. However, he did not account for a superb flying catch from Yuvraj at backward point to give India an ideal tonic.

Sreesanth was a little erratic, while there was no doubt he was generating good pace, but at the expense of a little accuracy. Well, if he was not to know where the ball was going, Brad Hodge would not have had a clue.

The first ball of Sreesanth’s second over started off wide of off stump, then swung excessively into a Steve Harmison style wide. His next ball was over compensated for and drifted down the leg side for another wide. The guessing game began for Hodge, and he ultimately guessed wrong. Sreesanth got his next ball exactly right, and the ball swung back into Hodge and trapped him lbw. Hodge appeared to be deceived by the surprise straight one.

Michael Clarke then joined Hayden at the crease, and the pair set about consolidating, while also picking up any available runs by positive running and strokeplay. Once Clarke had settled and got away with a couple of airy fairy drives, he looked the part. His timing of the ball off his legs was impressive, and he began building his innings maturely, clearly aware of his crucial role in the middle order with both Ponting and Hussey on the sidelines.

Due to the precarious situation Australia were in after two early blows, Hayden was perhaps not as aggressive as he would have liked, initially. When it seemed he was getting into his stride, Sreesanth removed him in a similar way to how he did in the Twenty20. Hayden went for one of his muscled shots through the leg-side, which could also be referred to as a slog, but the ball crashed into his stumps.

Andrew Symonds stay was also a fairly brief one, he was deceived by a slower ball from Sreesanth and was struck on his pads. The technology suggesting it would have gone on to hit the wickets. It was an excellent change of pace from the fiery little Indian, who let go of the ball out of the side of his hand, in a leg-spin style delivery. Sreesanth had three wickets, and amidst some of his more wild deliveries were some very pacy swinging balls, swinging both ways at that.

At 90-4, Australia desperately needed a partnership, and that was what they got with the New South Wales team-mates, Clarke and Haddin.

Haddin is well known for his powerful striking in domestic cricket in Australia, and he is yet to transfer those skills to the international game, but this innings was a good indication of his abilities. His orthodox technique was sound, and the pair ran extremely well between the wickets. When the chance came for a boundary, they did not disappoint.

Clarke’s footwork was outstanding, decisive in either shimmying down the track to Powar and Yuvraj, or going back, making use of the depth of his crease.

Powar’s slow flighted deliveries, that got England into such a muddle earlier in the year, was not having the same effect on this pair, as they used their feet intelligently, combining power shots down the ground with deft deflections where there were no fielders. Haddin smashed him straight for a six, while Clarke cashed in on a couple of loose balls and hit the spinner for three sixes later in his next spell.

Irfan Pathan has regained his bowling action, and his accuracy and pace were both good, but India were struggling to contain Australia, who had consistently been just over five runs per over throughout, despite losing the early wickets.

Yuvraj finally removed Haddin, when he danced down the pitch and did not quite get there, yet he attempted a slog across the line which he missed and Dhoni did the rest. It was an important knock for the visitors, and Haddin’s confidence at this level will surely grow from this.

Clarke brought his century up with a full toss gift from Powar which he deposited over mid wicket for a maximum. His traditional kiss of the badge ensued, and Clarke richly deserved all his plaudits for this mature showing at a ground he hugely enjoys, he made a century here on his Test debut. This innings was typical of Clarke, so strong through the on-side, and one particular straight drive off Zaheer demonstrated the exemplory timing he had found.

James Hopes was not going to hang around, and he plundered 37 off only 25 balls, before holding out to long on off Zaheer. He had played his part, and in the process they had broke the record for the highest sixth wicket partnership at Bangalore, they accumulated 73 in just eight overs. It was Hopes’ first international appearance since he played against Bangladesh in April 2006, and this was a pretty decent start for him.

When a world class side is pushed into a corner, there is always someone that is willing to be counted and ensure his side reach respectability, in this case it was Clarke. They surpassed respectability with their final total of 307-7, with 87 coming off the final ten overs.

India’s reply got off to a terrible start when Johnson removed Tendulkar for nought.

You can never entirely write India off, despite needing to chase down a daunting total, because of the quality in their line-up. Ganguly did not open, as he had picked up a hamstring injury while fielding, but there was still Dravid, Yuvraj and Dhoni to come.

It would perhaps have led to an exciting game of cricket, but it was the weather that decided this one.

Australia 307-7 (off 50 overs)
Michael Clarke 130, Brad Haddin 69, James Hopes 37, Matthew Hayden 34
S.Sreesanth 3-55, Zaheer Khan 2-64

India 9-1 (off 2.4 overs)

Match Abandoned

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by Paul Wood