Australia won as many matches as India did in the CB Series - five for each team - but for the second time in two years, they were blanked in the finals, as India took home the final edition of the tri-series. It was a tournament dominated by bowlers - 11 of them averaged less than 30 - but what ultimately made the difference was the performances of the batsmen. India was the only team with three from their regular line-up averaging more than 40 - Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar; Australia and Sri Lanka had only one each (Michael Hussey and Kumar Sangakkara). (Click on the teams for the batting and bowling averages of India, Australia and Sri Lanka in the tournament.)
That it was a dismal series for batsmen can be gleaned from the fact that only eight of them - from all three teams - finished with a 35-plus average. It was a particularly forgettable series for two champion batsmen. Sanath Jayasuriya finished with 103 runs from seven innings at an average of 14.71, only marginally better than the 14.20 he managed in his debut ODI series, again in Australia, 19 years ago. Ricky Ponting wasn't much better: take away the 124 he scored against India in Sydney, and he aggregated a paltry 67 from nine innings. In ODI series of more than three games, only once has he fared worse. Australia's key allrounder Andrew Symonds went missing with the bat too: it was among his poorest returns in a series as a batsman.
The batting averages for the three teams in the tournament clearly shows India had a significant advantage on that front. Even though Australia's bowlers returned better numbers, the difference between batting and bowling averages was highest for India. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, struggled with both bat and ball.
The partnership stats further illustrates the difference between the two sides. The Indians were the only ones to average more than 30 for each of the first six wickets. The poor form of Ponting and Symonds severely handicapped Australia, while Sri Lanka were almost entirely dependent on the third wicket partnership between Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
In a tournament where run-scoring wasn't easy, it isn't surprising to see a relatively high dot-ball percentage for all three teams. Australia and India played almost exactly the same percentage of runless deliveries, but while Australia relied more on singles, twos and threes, India had a marginally higher boundary percent. Sri Lanka lacked both the enterprise in running between the wickets and the firepower to strike boundaries.
Going into the finals, India's openers had only given them an average partnership of 23.25. In the two finals, though, Tendulkar and Robin Uthappa gave them two confident starts which went a long way towards India overhauling a competitive target in the first game, and setting a challenging total in the second. Overall, India's performance in the first 20 overs stood out for the ability to keep wickets in hand, and manage bigger partnerships in the early stages of their innings. India's average total after 20 overs was 89 for 2, compared to Australia's 90 for 3 and Sri Lanka's 79 for 3.
Despite messing it up a bit in the last ten overs at the Gabba on Tuesday, India were also the best of the three sides in the last ten overs, averaging more than a run a ball at a fairly healthy average.
As a bowling unit, though, Australia were the best of the three teams: they took more wickets with the new ball, gave away fewer runs during the Powerplays, were more incisive during the middle overs, and more economical at the end than India and Sri Lanka.
One of the big differences for Australia between the league games and the finals was the ineffectiveness of Brett Lee in the finals. In the earlier games against India, Lee was deadly, taking 11 wickets in three games. In the two finals, though, he only managed one.
India also handled Nathan Bracken, the Man of the Series, much better than Sri Lanka did.
Lee won his fair share of the battles against Tendulkar, but in the two games that mattered the most, the Indian came out on top. Ishant Sharma's most interesting battles were against Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds - one averaged 69 against him, but the other fell three times to him in 29 balls. Sri Lanka were banking on Muttiah Muralitharan, but he failed to turn it on, averaging more than 39 per wicket at an economy rate of 4.81. The two batsmen who handled him the best were both left-handers: Gautam Gambhir and Adam Gilchrist scored at more than a run a ball against him without being dismissed.