The fact that anything can happen at any time is both the greatness and drawback of limited overs cricket. There is little weightage for form, for confidence or for the past. What happens on the day is the only thing that decides the outcome. The second limited overs international between India and Australia played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Pune on Wednesday saw the visitors completely outplay India and coast to an eight wicket victory.
The ever so elegant Mark Waugh, who signaled his return to form with two half centuries in the final Test at Chennai made an impeccable unbeaten 133, taking Australia to a comfortable victory. Notching up his 18th one-day century, Mark Waugh is now behind only Saeed Anwar (19) and Sachin Tendulkar (26) in the all time list of century makers. There are few people as unfussy and elegant when in form as Mark Waugh. Tendulkar gives the ball a hard thump, Brian Lara shuffles a lot in his crease but Mark Waugh is simple, precise and a treat to watch. Even the New South Welshman's detractors would have to grant that. Scoring 133 of the finest runs, Mark Waugh struck the ball to the fence 15 times and cleared the ropes once.
But it was not all Mark Waugh. Matthew Hayden, still hungry for runs, continued to milk India at the top of the order. Despite coming out to the crease with a target of 249, Hayden was calm as ever and went about his task of gathering runs with consummate ease. In the company of Mark Waugh, Hayden made 57 (116 mins, 81 balls, 5 fours, 1 six) and put on 143 for the opening wicket. Despite a mix up and run out of Darren Lehmann just 20 runs later, Australia made it home with almost five overs to spare. Michael Bevan, not out on 33 was at the crease when the winning runs were scored.
Earlier in the day, when Sourav Ganguly won the toss he had no doubt in his mind that batting first was the right thing to do. Even the fact that the wicket appeared to be dry and looked like it had spots on it did not deter the Indian skipper. Hemang Badani, batting at number five, relished the captain's decision. Helping himself to his maiden one-day international century, Badani scored at better than run a ball and held the Indian innings together.
Then again, the Tamil Nadu southpaw had to produce a big innings. Involved in two run outs, Badani would have been keen to push the Indian score on. Stroking the ball around the park in characteristic fashion, Badani looked calm and composed even as things fell to pieces around him. Ganguly's woeful form with the bat continued into the second limited overs game. Spending half an hour at the wicket, Ganguly made just 4 before dragging a ball from Glenn McGrath back onto his wicket. Sachin Tendulkar, in aggressive form once more, made a quick 32 (35 mins, 29 balls, 6 fours, 1 six) before mistiming a short ball from Damien Fleming to be caught by Darren Lehmann in the midwicket region.
VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid then attempted to replicate their joint efforts, employed so successfully in the past in this series but failed. In the first of three mix ups in the innings, Dravid (13) was run out. Laxman then settled into a good rhythm and in the company of the fluent Badani went about the task of rebuilding the innings. The pair managed to add 93 for the fourth wicket before Laxman was run out by Steve Waugh in another mix up. When Badani played the ball to Steve Waugh in the 35th over, Laxman (51, 86 balls, 3 fours) set off for a single without waiting for a call. Scrambling to get back home, Laxman was found short by Steve Waugh's throw. Dinesh Mongia making his debut in one-day cricket did not last long, making just two before finding himself at the wrong end of yet another run out.
At the fall of Mongia's wicket, India were 157/5 off 36.1 overs and a score of around 220 looked likely. Showing great maturity, Badani raised the bar. After seeing that 200 was a reality, Badani went on to tame the bowling, although his innings was not excessively dominant. Badani's innings seldom are, the manner in which he held out against both pace and spin made him a thorn in Australia's flesh. When he finally holed out to Lehmann in the deep, Badani had made exactly 100 (142 mins, 98 balls, 10 fours, 2 sixes). India ended with 248/9 off their 50 overs, much more than what looked likely halfway through the innings.