Sunday, February 13, 2011

Watson falls after bright start

India v Australia, World Cup 2011 warm-up, Bangalore

Clinical Australia restrict India to 214

Watson falls after bright start
Virender Sehwag was the only bright spot for India © AFP

A massive crowd befitting an actual World Cup game had turned up to cheer India on at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, but even the booming music and the frequent bugle calls failed to lift them, as the home side's batting flopped in the high-profile warm-up match against Australia, who gave another demonstration of how dangerous a side they are. Barring the huge number of wides, Ricky Ponting will have few complaints about the bowling performance on a track which wasn't providing much help, with even their lowest-profile bowler, John Hastings, providing two significant breakthroughs.
One cause of comfort for Indian fans was that Virender Sehwag showed no signs of the shoulder problem that kept him out of the recent one-dayers in South Africa, as he top scored with a half-century. He began with an effortless push for four past extra cover off a low full toss but couldn't provide the customary high-speed start since he was starved of strike: he faced only four deliveries in the first five overs, and 56 in the 23 overs he lasted. He could have been dismissed in the fifth over after a mix-up with Virat Kohli, but Ponting failed to hit the one stump he had to aim at. Sehwag was at his most attacking against the spin of Jason Krejza, skipping beyond leg and looking to cut four times in Krejza's first over. He carved three fours off Krejza, and blasted him over long-off to reach his fifty, but the offspinner had his revenge by bowling Sehwag next ball.
Before his dismissal Sehwag watched a procession of India's specialist batsmen, none of whom made big contributions. Gautam Gambhir never looked at ease in a short stay before edging to slip; Virat Kohli showed glimpses of his class in his 21 before chopping Hastings to backward point; Yuvraj Singh walked after an indecisive response to a bouncer - initially looking to sway out of the way before feathering the ball to the keeper; MS Dhoni was bowled for 11, prolonging his fallow spell in one-dayers.
At 113 for 5, with the seniors dismissed, Suresh Raina had a chance to stake his World Cup claim by reviving the innings. He survived the short balls Australia fired at him but didn't last very long, nicking Brett Lee as he attempted on-the-up drive. Lee was in top form, accurate and slipping in the bouncers and yorkers at pace to trouble the batting. He finished with figures of 3 for 35, the highlight of which was a full and fast delivery that dislodged Harbhajn Singh's middle stump.
Once again, it was left to Yusuf Pathan to ensure India put up a fight. He made an unusually patient 32 (and was 18 off 34 at one stage), and had plenty of fortune as Australia's put down two sitters. Yusuf cut out the big hits, even against Krejza, preferring to paddle-sweep him rather than try to hammer him over long-on. With R Ashwin providing solid support, Yusuf dragged India from the depths of 138 for 8 towards 200, and he attempted his trademark big hits only after spending ten overs at the crease, as he clubbed part-timer David Hussey twice into the stands behind long-on. The crowd started to find its voice again, but was silenced soon after as Yusuf's next swipe flew to Krejza at deep midwicket. There was more late resistance, as Ashwin and Ashish Nehra added 27 to take India to the mild respectability of 214.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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