Sunday 24 February 2008 

Ponting Century Sets Australia Up For 18-Run Win


Australia 317-7 (Ponting 124, Symonds 59, Hayden 54)
India 299 (Gambhir 113, Uthappa 51, Lee 5-58)

Australia won by 18 runs in Sydney

Ricky Ponting returned to form with a splendid 124 as Australia posted an imposing 317 for seven and then beat India by 18 runs in the Commonwealth Bank Series in Sydney.

Gautam Gambhir hit 113 and Robin Uthappa 51 for India as they were bowled out for 299 in a spirited run chase that looked dead in the water at 51 for four early on. Brett Lee took five for 58 on his return after two games out resting.

Gatuam Gambhir hit a brilliant 113 and Robin Uthappa a quick fire 51. But it was Brett Lee who stole the show claiming five for 58 helping his side bowl India out for 299, leaving them 19 short of their victory target.

Chasing 318 to win and seal their place in the final, India got off to the worst possible start losing Sachin Tendulkar for just two in the first over of their innings. He was adjudged lbw, Brett Lee took the wicket and it left India three for one in the first over.

The fall of the Little Master brought Delhi team-mates Gambhir and Virender Sehwag together. Both are naturally attacking batsmen and clearly aware that India needed to stay up with the required run rate. They started to counter-attack with some glorious boundaries off the bowling of both Nathan Bracken and Lee.

Just as the partnership looked as though it was bringing India back into the game, Sehwag was caught behind for 18 by Gilchrist off the bowling of Stuart Clark to leave India 45 for two in the ninth over.

When Rohit Sharma was dismissed in the very next over, caught behind off the bowling of Bracken, it left India reeling on 47 for three and desperately needing a big partnership to have any chance of even getting close to victory.

Yuvraj Singh didn�t last too long, he fished at a ball outside off stump from Clark and only succeeded in edging through to Gilchrist, much to the left handers disgust. Yuvraj only made five and his wicket left India 51 for four in the eleventh over.

The loss of those three quick wickets gave India no option but to try and rebuild their innings by working the ball around. Gambhir and Mahendra Singh Dhoni did this, with some lovely stroke play and bold running between the wickets, as the Indian 100 and Gambhir�s 50 were registered from the same ball in the 22nd over.

Gambhir and Dhoni continued to rebuild India�s innings as Gambhir, in particular, started to play some very attacking shots all around the wicket, as India reached 148 for four after 30 overs. Australia were still firm favourites at this stage, but the partnership was really starting to frustrate them.

Just when it looked as though the pair were giving India an outside chance of victory, Dhoni was caught behind by Gilchrist off the bowling of Lee for 36 to leave India 149 for five in the 31st over, and once more firmly on the back foot.

Dhoni�s dismissal brought the talented Robin Uthappa to the crease. Uthappa and Gambhir launched an astonishing counter-attack against the Australian�s scoring with a flurry of boundaries that brought the game to life.

Gambhir registered his century in the 37th over. It was his second century in the tournament and the fourth of his ODI career.

There was a real sense that these two could pull of something spectacular but it wasn't to be as Gambhir was stumped by Gilchrist of the bowling of Brad Hogg for a superb 113 from 119 balls.

Gambhir�s wicket left India 216 for six in the 40th over and broke a very threatening partnership between himself and Uthappa which was worth 67 runs from just eight and a half overs.

India kept attacking with Uthappa and Irfan Pathan putting on a partnership of 41 in just over five overs, and the tourists still held a slim chance of victory. However, when Pathan was caught at fine leg by Bracken off the bowling of James Hopes for 22, India were 257 for seven after 45 overs and their chances of pulling off a remarkable victory were all but over.

Uthappa brought up his 50 off just 43 balls as India continued to go hard at the Australians. Harbhajan Singh made 20 from just 11 balls before he was caught by Gilchrist off the bowling of Lee to leave India 290 for eight. Uthappa�s resistance came to an end the very next ball, falling for a brave 51 as India were 290 for nine and on the brink of defeat.

Lee claimed the final wicket of the game, his fifth of the innings when he bowled Ishant Sharma for two, to help Australia seal a very hard-fought 18-run victory.

Earlier, it was Ponting, with good support initially by Matthew Hayden (54) and later Andrew Symonds (59), who set up Australia's score of 317 for seven with a fine innings of 124.

Australia won the toss and decided to bat first, Adam Gilchrist making a flying start to his innings scoring 16 from just seven balls. However, he was brilliantly caught by Dhoni, off the bowling of Sreesanth just when he was looking very ominous, this left Australia 21 for one in just the fourth over.

The fall of Gilchrist�s wicket did not halt the Australians' progress, as skipper Ricky and Hayden climbed into the Indian bowling, as Australia raced to 92 for one after ten overs, the best start by any team in this tournament so far.

Ponting and Hayden continued to score at a very healthy rate for Australia, as the duo both reached their half-centuries, Ponting�s 50 came off just 51 balls, as Australia reached 130 for one after 20 overs and with these two so well set, they now had their sights firmly set on a mammoth total.

Hayden was run out in the very next over after a total misunderstanding with Ponting. It ended a brilliant stand of 110 between the pair as Hayden departed for 54 with Australia 131 for two.

Australia kept scoring at a decent pace with Ponting and Michael Clarke batting positively and they found themselves 182 for two after 30 overs.

The partnership was really putting Australia in command before Clarke, perhaps a touch over confident, hit a firm pull shot straight down Rohit Sharma�s throat off the bowling of Sehwag. Clarke had made 31 and his departure left Australia 194 for three in the 32nd over.

Ponting and Symonds continued to play positively and score at a decent rate as Australia moved their score to 231 for three after 40 overs. Ponting reached a magnificent century just a couple of overs later having looked totally out of form in the lead up to this game. Symonds who has also also looked out of nick so far in this series played some expansive shots of his own as he reached his 50 in the 47th over.

Symonds was eventually bowled by Ishant Sharma in the 48th over for a brilliant 59 from 48 balls. Ponting followed in the very next over when he was caught at long off by Pathan off the bowling of Sreesanth for a superb 124. This left Australia at a very healthy 304 for five in the 49th over.

Aaron Kumar
� Cricket World 2008

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