Imperious Australia crush India by 208 runs
Australia 359 for 5 (Hayden 126, Martyn 67, Symonds 66) beat India 151 by 208 runs
Matthew Hayden soaks up the applause at the SCG
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In a performance which was, if anything, even more ruthless than the one they put up in the 2003 World Cup final, Australia crushed India by 208 runs, clinching the VB Series in style and proving, quite emphatically, that they remained by far the best one-day side in the world. In the process, they inflicted on India their second-worst ODI defeat (after the 245-run loss against Sri Lanka in Sharjah in 2000-01), and ensured that a series which had so many memorable moments for India ended in dismal fashion.
The match ran almost exactly to the script that was written at Johannesburg almost a year ago. For Ricky Ponting, who smashed an unbeaten 140 in that match, read Matthew Hayden, who struck a beautifully paced 126 here. Damien Martyn played the ideal foil for the second time with a fluent 67.
Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke then gave a brutal exhibition of power-hitting in the slog overs, as 110 came off the last eight overs, lifting the total to 359, exactly as many as in the World Cup. The best India could have hoped for from there was to salvage a semblance of pride, but even that turned out to be too much to hope for as the top five were back in the hutch within the first 15 overs.
The Indians were on the back foot right from the start, after Ponting won the toss and opted to bat on a shirtfront. Already handicapped by the absence of Anil Kumble and Ajit Agarkar, the Indian attack had little in their bowling armoury to challenge the might of the Australians, and showed all the fatigue of having spent three gruelling months on tour. By the time the slog overs approached, Sourav Ganguly, like in the World Cup final, could only watch helplessly and wait for the 50 overs to be bowled out.
Adam Gilchrist and Hayden began in typically frenetic fashion, bringing up the fifty in the eighth over, as both Irfan Pathan and Lakshmipathy Balaji, in an attempt to cramp the batsmen for room, drifted on leg stump and were duly punished. India briefly mounted a comeback, getting rid of Gilchrist and Ponting in quick succession, but then came the 173-run second wicket stand which laid the perfect platform for the final assault.
Hayden's was a typically characteristic innings, punctuated by plenty of clunky blows at the start off the seamers - his fifty took just 37 balls - and then some meaty slog-sweeps and down-the-pitch hoicks off the spinners. Equally importantly, he nursed a circumspect Martyn back into form during the crucial middle overs, keeping the runs coming at a fair clip and allowing Martyn to find his groove by milking the attack for singles.
Sourav Ganguly had nowhere to hide
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Realising that the pitch didn't have much pace or bounce, Ganguly pressed the slower bowlers into service, and while that briefly reduced the run-glut briefly, regular service resumed as Hayden tonked a couple of sixes off Virender Sehwag and Murali Kartik, whose nightmare tour continued to get worse. Martyn gained in fluency too, reaching his fifty off 58 balls, and then unveiling some sumptuous square-drive and flicks.
The third wicket partnership finally ended when Martyn holed out to Hemang Badani at midwicket off Pathan (230 for 3), and though Hayden went soon after, missing a too-ambitious reverse-sweep off Sachin Tendulkar (248 for 4), that proved to be a blessing for Australia, for it brought on stage Symonds and Clarke.
Pulling and flicking the ball with awesome power, the pair put together a tremendous exhibition of power hitting. It wasn't as if Ganguly didn't try out different bowlers: Pathan, Tendulkar, Kartik, Nehra and Balaji all tried their luck, and they all disappeared for more than ten per over, as the pair added 99 in a mere 7.5 overs as the Indians became increasingly ragged in the field. Nehra finally landed a yorker on target to dismiss Symonds, but by then the demolition job had already been done to perfection.
Thoroughly demoralised by the utter carnage in the afternoon, the Indians came out to bat knowing that the only question that remained was the margin of defeat. There were the odd sparks of defiance - Sehwag clipped the first ball of the innings, from Jason Gillespie, over fine leg for six, while Tendulkar played a couple of delightful flicks and punches off the back foot, but both were done the Gillespie-Lee combine - Lee, fielding at short fine leg, picked up a stunner when Sehwag attempted to hoick one to leg, and then picked up a more straightforward catch to get rid of Tendulkar.
From there it went rapidly downhill for India, as 49 for 2 became 59 for 6 in the space of eight overs. VVS Laxman spooned a catch back to Lee, a dismissal which needed the third umpire to confirm it wasn't a bump ball, Rahul Dravid was run out by Martyn's direct hit for 0, ending a record 120-match run without a duck, Ganguly slapped a drive straight to point, and Yuvraj Singh nicked one to the keeper. The rest of the batsmen helped themselves to a few meaningless runs, but the contest was over well before Brad Williams got through Balaji's defences to put an end to the Indian misery.