Match abandoned after Clarke's pyrotechnics
Match abandoned Australia 175 for 7 (Clarke 42, Balaji 3-20) v India
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
India were left praying for a huge favour from Pakistan to stay in contention for the Videocon Cup after a sharp shower took the matter out of their control. The match was abandoned midway, after India had done well to restrict Australia to 175 for 7, and only a massive victory by Pakistan over Australia, in which they gain a bonus point, will allow India to sneak in through the back door.
Incessant drizzle in the morning had already reduced the game to 32 overs a side, but the sun shone for much of the Australian innings before the skies opened up again, forcing the players off the field in the last over. The sun broke back though an hour later, but by then the match had been called off.
It was a cruel blow for India, who gave a spirited performance on the field. Their bowlers made canny use of the slowness of the pitch, and they took three sharp catches, including a stunner on the long-on boundary by Virender Sehwag as Australia were made to struggle for runs. It was an inventive 28-ball 42 from Michael Clarke that took Australia to a competitive total. Clarke came in when India had strangled the top-order batsmen and reduced Australia to 101 for 5 in the 23rd over. With six crisp fours and whippet-like urgency he gave the innings momentum and meat.
Clarke was off the blocks second ball, late-cutting a short ball from Sehwag to the third-man fence, and kept the momentum going till the end. His quicksilver footwork put the spinners off their length and he tore into the medium-pacers towards the end. It ended in breathtaking fashion as well with Sehwag, at long-off, timing his jump to perfection and plucking a one-handed stunner with both his feet off the ground.
Before Clarke came in though, Lakshmipathy Balaji had helped India seize the initiative. Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting had added 46 in a little more than ten overs and the situation was ripe for an assault. But a quiet period followed, with Balaji and Sehwag bowling in tandem, when only 26 runs came in seven overs. Though Balaji was bowling from a shortened run and had cut his pace down considerably, he surprised the batsmen with a few darting cutters that went both ways. Sehwag's second ball would have made Muttiah Muralitharan's eyes light up. Hayden was completely bamboozled by one that pitched on leg and zipped past the edge.
In the 15th over, Balaji dealt the double blow. He first removed Hayden, who walked down the track and smashed a short ball straight to Sourav Ganguly at short midwicket, and then nailed Ponting with an incutter that had him lbw (70 for 3).
Hayden's 29 came from 49 balls and he struggled to come to grips with the bowling. He repeatedly attempted to put the bowlers off their rhythm by walking down the track and trying to smash them straight back. This resulted in several edgy moments, but Hayden and Ponting hurried between the wickets and kept the run rate hovering around five an over. When Ponting was finally dismissed leg-before, television replays indicated that he had received a marginal decision - but he had been fortunate on two previous occasions when confident appeals weren't upheld (70 for 3). Ponting made 26 from just 28 balls, his canny placement and running between the wickets the highlight.
Anil Kumble was brought on in the 17th over, and he served up two juicy long-hops to Andrew Symonds - one of which was duly carted away to midwicket. But he threw in the flipper fourth ball, and Symonds went for a ferocious cut. Jeremy Lloyds, the umpire, upheld the appeal for caught behind, but replays suggested that he had got it wrong (83 for 4).
Darren Lehmann and Damien Martyn then played quietly for nearly five overs, before Martyn attempted to break free by waltzing down the track to the spinners. He succeeded in lofting Sehwag for a four to midwicket, but was beaten two overs later attempting a similar stroke. Sehwag pitched it slightly short and Martyn was bowled trying to hit across the line (101 for 5).
Lehmann fell trying to loft Kumble over long-off, where Rohan Gavaskar snapped up a diving chance, and India had a great chance to keep the total below 150. That was when Clarke struck. And as if to rub it in for India, the rain struck soon after.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is on the staff of Wisden Cricinfo.