Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Upbeat Australia defeat India by 93 runs, level series

Australia annihilated the Indian bowlers in the first session to make 338/4 in 50 overs and then demolished the top order of the Indian batting line up, to bowl them out for 245 in 45 overs. Australia thus levelled the series 2-2 after the fourth ODI played at Indira Priyadarshini Municipal Corporation Stadium, Vishakapatnam on Tuesday.

In tough times, the Aussies really back their ability. Steve Waugh is a very good example of the great Australian spirit. He has backed Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne in spite of their continued failure. Today, Ponting (101) and Warne (3/38) came good when it really mattered. The captain himself played a whirlwind 35 off 24 balls and then came back to bowl an inspired spell to pick up 3/29.

In contrast, Sourav Ganguly is a lost man with the bat. He has tried all the tricks in his bag to get out of this wretched run of poor form. Ganguly has been switching batting positions and today he opened the innings with Sachin Tendulkar. The Aussies are not the kind who give a free meal to a struggling opponent. They are a bunch of tough professionals and today they had Ganguly tied up in a knot for 36 balls while he made nine runs. He then pushed an easy catch to Warne at short cover off Bracken.

Sachin Tendulkar had the crowd on their feet cheering and dancing to the 11 sweetly timed fours he hit. He played a quick-fire 62 off just 38 balls before slicing a catch to Waugh off the bowling of Bracken. There was a thunderous roar in the stadium when Tendulkar smashed McGrath for three consecutive boundaries in the 11th over.

Warne sent a quick one down the leg side to VVS Laxman (11) and Gilchrist effected a lightning stumping. It was the leg spinner's wicket number 250 in ODIs, the first for an Australian bowler. Rahul Dravid (7) gave an easy return catch to Warne, who was bowling with a good rhythm.

Steve Waugh the forgotten all-rounder in the Australian side brought himself into the attack and reaped success in his second over, Hemang Badani (25) tapped one straight to Warne at short cover. Waugh was making use of the stiff wind that was blowing across the ground. He made a ball move away from Robin Singh (16) and the edge was well taken by Gilchrist.

The Australian victory was just a formality and it came about in the 45th over. Harbhajan Singh (46) and Zaheer Khan threw their bat in gay abandon against the bowling of Michael Bevan, as sixes and fours came in a hurry. Waugh was holding back his ace bowlers McGrath and Bracken. Zaheer greeted McGrath with a pull over the mid-wicket ropes for a massive six and a powerful straight drive for four. Harbhajan kept slogging till Shane Lee took the catch at square leg off McGrath.

Earlier, Waugh won the toss and decided to bat first. Gilchrist (6) struck a four and was immediately caught behind off the bowling of Srinath in the first over of the day.

Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting applied themselves brilliantly to put together a partnership of 219 off 215 balls. Man of the Match Hayden was the first to get to the hundred, his maiden ODI century. Ponting who has been sleepwalking through a bad spell of failure, woke up today to bat at his very best. Steve Waugh has had big faith in this Tasmanian's ability with the bat and Ponting repaid his captain with a brilliant 101 off 110 balls, unleashing his full repertoire of strokes; striking 13 strokes past the ropes.

Matthew Lawrence Hayden, the big man from Queensland has walked with his head held high all through this tour. He has made it a habit to score runs against the Indian attack. Hayden walked down the track and lofted Ganguly over the mid-wicket fence for a massive six and then later swung Harbhajan Singh over long leg for a huge six. He made 111 runs off 112 balls with the help of the two towering sixes and nine boundaries before being stumped by Dahiya off the bowling of Harbhajan Singh.

Australia were 246/3 in the 40th over and had two new batsmen in the middle, who are the masters of playing in the final overs, Michael Bevan and Steve Waugh. Running like lightning between the wickets and smashing the odd boundary, they kept the scoreboard moving at a rapid pace. Waugh's knock is never complete without his legendary 'heave-ho'. Today his heave-ho off Srinath flew straight over the bowler's head for a six. Waugh made a quick fire 35 off just 24 balls with the help of three boundaries and a six while adding 66 runs in 7.5 overs with Bevan.

Shane Lee, making his first appearance in India, struck three fours in the last over from Zaheer Khan. He was at the crease for just nine minutes to make 25 runs off 11 balls to fire the Australia total to 338/4. The outcome in the final match in Goa on Friday will decide the winners of the ODI Series.