India end series on Twenty20 high
The one-day series might have gone but India lived up to their world champions tag in the Twenty20, finishing with a thumping seven-wicket win in Mumbai. Australia have bossed around for most of the last month but India can take consolation from one stat: the last eight internationals between the two sides have been shared 4-4.
Ricky Ponting's blazing 76 launched a meaty Australian total but it was soon to be overshadowed by Gautam Gambhir's swash and buckle. The jury is still out on his Test and 50-over credentials but there's few who will argue with his ability to swing a Twenty20 match. With fifties against New Zealand, England, Pakistan and Australia he's been India's most valuable batsmen in the shortest format. Only Matthew Hayden has managed a similar number of fifties; nobody has managed to defy expectations so consistently.
Like he's done on each of those occasions, Gambhir set the agenda in an emphatic manner, partnering Robin Uthappa and Yuvraj Singh in rollicking stands. Gambhir cut loose with a fearlessness that was missing in some of the 50-over games. The dance down the track was a regular feature but the chiselled square-cut was the sight of the evening.
Australia's bowlers had a tough time - the 24 extras indicated as much - and all conceded seven or more runs an over. Brett Lee was shredded to the tune of 20 runs in his sixth over, when the total went from 30 to 50, and Australia never recovered. Overthrows and a wicket off a no-ball typified their day and there was really nothing that went their way in front of a raucous crowd. Gambhir fell with 24 still needed, holing out to mid-on trying to end with a flourish, but Australian would have known that the kangaroo was well and truly bolted.
Robin Uthappa's blistering 35, including six crunchy fours, went well with the fireworks illuminating the Mumbai skies. The cheerleaders in the stands might have twisted and turned but Uthappa didn't waver from striking straight: walking down the track casually and ripping shots with laughable ease. Virender Sehwag managed just 5 on his return but Yuvraj Singh swung India to the finish. Ben Hilfenhaus, playing his first match of the tour, and Michael Clarke were the most effective bowlers but the others didn't have much to smile.
Earlier Ponting made good use of the advantage at the toss. Cashing in on a belter of a pitch that was being used for the first time, he shrugged off a regular loss of partners to motor to his highest score of the tour.
Entering as early as the first over, after Adam Gilchrist slammed three consecutive fours before losing his middle stump to a incisive RP Singh yorker, Ponting displayed controlled aggression. He threw his bat at anything wide of the stumps - fortunate to see Mahendra Singh Dhoni unable to clasp onto a thick edge while lunging to the right - and brought out the imperious pull when anything was short.
He did struggle occasionally against sharp turn that Murali Kartik extracted - the most attacking bowler on show - and preferred to play out Harbhajan Singh's yorker-length offerings. Hayden, who missed the two games due to a hip injury, hammered two huge sixes, walking down the track with characteristic impunity, before playing on to Harbhajan. A mid-pitch misunderstanding did Andrew Symonds in, just when he appeared set to open up, and Brad Hodge capped off a forgettable tour, finishing on an average of less than 10.
Harbhajan was India's most economical bowler, conceding just 17 in his four overs, and Kartik proved an able ally. RP Singh, largely erratic, should have ended with another wicket, with umpire Amish Saheba failing to detect an edge off Brad Haddin in the last over, but it didn't make a difference in the final analysis. This was a Twenty20 and India were here to show their championship class.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor on Cricinfo