Australia 347 for 2 (Gilchrist 111, Ponting 108*) beat India 286 for 8 (Tendulkar 89, Sehwag 39) by 61 runs
To Ashish Nehra, who was playing his first game since the World Cup final on March 23, it must have seemed like a horrific deja vu. As on that day, Australia's batting ruthlessly demolished the Indian bowling at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, divesting it of 347 runs with all the finesse of a master butcher.
As in the World Cup final, Ricky Ponting scored a hundred - an unbeaten 108 - but the platform was laid by Adam Gilchrist's magnificent 111, his first ODI century against India. Although India's batting put up a brave fight, maintaining a rate of almost seven runs per over for 50 overs proved too much to ask, and Australia won by 61 runs.
When Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar walked out under the lights, Australia had arguably already batted India out of the game. To have even a realistic shot at the target, India needed to begin in a mad frenzy. Tendulkar was in supreme control from the very beginning, but Sehwag, dropped three times - most notably by Matthew Hayden at slip - took some time to get his eye in and his form flowing. Just after he had done so, however, he played across the line to a straight Ian Harvey delivery (103 for 1).
VVS Laxman stayed only briefly before chipping Michael Clarke to cover (148 for 2), but the biggest blow came when a delivery from Harvey kept low, took Tendulkar's pad and cannoned into his stumps (172 for 3). Although his 89 came quickly, Tendulkar had looked extremely unhurried at the crease, cleverly paddling bowlers of all pace to fine leg numerous times and placing the ball to optimum effect throughout.
After Sourav Ganguly slashed Andrew Symonds to deep point and Michael Kasprowicz, big man that he is, leapt athletically to his right to snap up Rahul Dravid's return catch, India effectively were trying to reach 278, to deny Australia the bonus point and take one for themselves. That they achieved, leaving both India and New Zealand on ten points, and ensuring that the final league match at Hyderabad is a virtual semi-final.
Earlier, Gilchrist, passing 1000 one-day runs against India, put together a potent cocktail of booming hits and knee-pumping running. Ponting, gritting his teeth through an initial period of struggle, hit seven sixes in a century that was less polished but just as valuable as Gilchrist's. As at Johannesburg, Damien Martyn set about his supporting role effectively and efficiently, even as nothing - not the bowling, not the fielding - went right for India.
That held true right from ball one, with Gilchrist cheekily gliding Nehra for four. Gilchrist singled Nehra out for punishment throughout his opening spell, taking three fours off his first over and two fours and a six off his fifth, at the end of which he had conceded 44. Ganguly hurriedly introduced spin, but Australia's openers marched on. When India finally got the breakthough, it came in what had seemed the only conceivable way - a run-out. Hayden (44) drove Anil Kumble to point, set off, stuttered twice, and finally tried to regain his crease - but by then, Ganguly had already thrown accurately to Dravid behind the stumps (119 for 1).
Gilchrist's characteristic pomp and grandeur then gave way to a rhythm of hard running; bustling between the wickets and still putting the frequent bad ball away with awesome power, he put Australia firmly on track for the massive total they eventually achieved. He missed being run out once - when Ponting drove into the covers and called for a risky single. The return to Dravid was awry, but even a fairly reasonable throw would have found Gilchrist short of the crease.
At the other end, Ponting was a picture of struggle. Twice in two balls he tried to hit Kartik over long-off, but barely cleared Zaheer Khan at mid-off. He could not come to terms with the turning ball, and only Dravid's rustiness behind the stumps saved Ponting from an easy stumping chance in the 30th over. It was another stroke of misfortune for Kartik, who bowled magnificently, with flight and courage.
Gilchrist, on the traditionally unlucky score of 111, swept Kumble straight into Zaheer's hands at square leg (198 for 2), but, magically, Ponting immediately got his groove back. His feet moving much more fluidly, he repeatedly waltzed down to smite the spinners off his legs for sixes over midwicket and long-on. Under this assault, India's bowling rapidly went to pieces: balls were rarely anything other than too short, too wide or too full. It was almost too easy for Australia's batsmen, and, if they make the final yet, India's bowlers cannot afford an encore of Bangalore.
Samanth Subramanian is sub editor of Wisden Cricinfo.