It's Australia's day as India crumbles
At its commencement, suspicions were high that match ten of the Carlton and United Series would effectively go a long way toward marking the end of India's campaign in international cricket in Australia this season. And by its cessation, the impression was certainly reinforced - a devastating 152 run loss to Australia ensuring that the vanquished now have only the barest of chances of progressing beyond the preliminary rounds of this competition.
Given that a series of seven losses from eight matches had preceded it on this tour, there was only a sliver of an opening for the Indians to set about reviving their fortunes in international competition in any case. But even that was never a real possibility, for the Australians' batsmen gained a early, record-breaking advantage for their team after it had won the toss and there was absolutely no way back for their rivals at all.
Indeed, from the moment in the opening over of the day that Mark Waugh (116) powered the very first delivery that he received to the cover fence, the writing was probably on the wall. On Australia's national day and in front of a capacity holiday crowd at the Adelaide Oval, Waugh and Adam Gilchrist (92) simply toyed with an uninspired Indian bowling and fielding outfit.
Against an attack which was rapidly forced to come to grips with the reality that the strip in use for this game was again eminently unsuited to bowlers, the two openers ignited the game with a sizzling exhibition. They set about shattering their previous best association (of 39) in the tournament, Gilchrist characteristically playing very powerfully through the off side to establish the trend. Two sparkling shots through and over point off Debashish Mohanty in the sixth over and then a glorious off drive off the same bowler in the eighth all generated boundaries and there was no particular diminution in his scoring rate thereafter. Not to be completely outdone, Waugh was also in fine touch from the outset, serially easing and nudging the ball into gaps the ball for many of his runs. Neither was afraid at any stage to lift the ball over the infield, nor to hit with power and precision through a tightly set field.
Before Gilchrist eventually fell to a mistimed slog sweep at Anil Kumble and was caught at deep mid wicket by Rahul Dravid, they added 163 runs in partnership in thirty overs without offering so much as a chance. Around the raising of a fourteenth one-day international century for Waugh, the New South Welshman and Ricky Ponting (43) then added another century partnership of their own for the second wicket as the spirits of India's players took a collective pounding. Even by the time that Ponting succumbed to another deep mid wicket catch by Dravid off Kumble and Waugh ventured too far down the pitch in missing a sweep at Sachin Tendulkar, there was not even a remote prospect of recovery.
Indeed, the main interest left in the innings centred around the idea of how close Australia might come to surpassing its all time record score (3/332 against Sri Lanka in Sharjah in 1989/90) in one-day international cricket. Andrew Symonds (26 off 15 balls) and Shane Lee (27*, also off 15 deliveries)edged them excruciatingly close but, as matters transpired, their tally of 5/329 was the second best in Australia's history and not quite good enough to claim the major prize. Consolation (and some consolation at that) did come, though, in the fact that it was the highest ever innings score at one-day international level in this country - exceeding the 2/323 compiled by Australia in a match against Sri Lanka at this venue in 1984/85.
In such circumstances, there was only one likely result in the match. And it was duly secured with a minimum of fuss and, sadly for India, with a minimum of resistance too. Worn down by a mixture of the shattering effect of earlier events and their state of general fatigue, the Indians revealed much the same frailties and flaws against accurate pace bowling and sharp fielding which have seen them consistently surrender to this opponent this season. That Sourav Ganguly (5) and Tendulkar (18) proved perfect party guests by coming armed with a pair of injudicious strokes, and Umpire Simon Taufel made a contribution of his own in initiating the dubious first ball demise of Hrishikesh Kanitkar (0), only added the icing to Australia's cake. Only a lovely flurry of boundaries from Dravid (63) around a five wicket haul from Brett Lee (5/27) extended the life of the on-field celebrations.
Even after this fifth loss, it is still possible in theory for the Indians to secure a berth in the Finals, but that would require a fundamental revision of their form. To all intents and purposes indeed, they already seem a completely spent force. And even if that miracle were to be achieved, it would probably require an even more momentous turn of events for them to conquer an opponent against whom the prospect of victory still seems no closer than it did when the tour began all those weeks ago.