Australia canters to a win in Vadodara ODI

Vadodara (Gujarat), Oct.11 : Sachin Tendulkar's record 400th ODI appearance at the IPCL Ground here on Thursday turned out to be an event that he would like to erase from his memory very soon, as Australia cantered to a nine-wicket win against India in the fifth of seven one-dayers between the two sides.

Adam Gilchrist, who pocketed six catches and played a leading role in effecting Saurav Ganguly's run out at the start of the Indian innings, got into some form with an unbeaten 79 from 77 deliveries. He was ably assisted by captain Ricky Ponting, who scored an unbeaten 39 to take the Aussies hope to their victory target of 149. For the record, India scored a paltry and disappointing 148.

India were under the gun from the first over of the match when some classically indecisive running between Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar gave Australia the initiative, and Rahul Dravid's first-ball dismissal hurt them hard. It was a tricky pitch initially with the ball staying low and stopping on the batsmen, but India just couldnt cope with Australia's attack.

An efficient spell of left-arm pace, outstanding wicketkeeping and injudicious shot selection on a pitch lacking bounce combined to restrict India to a modest 148. This was India's lowest home total against Australia, who set up a platform to storm to a position from where they cannot lose this series.

The bowling hero was Australian pacer Mitchell Johnson, who scalped a fiver. On a ground where the average total hovers around 280, it soon emerged that the pitch wasn't the subcontinental shirtfront that everyone expected.

Tendulkar, honoured before the game for reaching 400 ODIs, briefly promised a classic but he didn't have much of an answer against a ferocious away-cutter from Brett Lee, a candidate for the ball of the series, that breached his defences.

India paid for some indiscreet strokeplay. Pre-match talk might have pointed to a 300-plus score but they failed to read the surface. Sourav Ganguly's early run out, when Tendulkar didn't respond to a risky single, started the slide and there was hardly any time to recover. Rahul Dravid's struggles continued with a first-ball duck, rooted to the crease and beaten by a Lee inswinger, while Robin Uthappa, confidently punching during his brief stay, was unlucky to be adjudged leg before to a ball striking him outside off and heading past the off stump.

Pathan joined Tendulkar with India on 43 for 5 in the tenth over. Tendulkar played a few sublime strokes, caressing through covers and driving down the ground, but the string of early wickets forced the pair to bide their time. Lee produced the killer blow when he returned for his second spell in the 26th over. The good-length ball moved away just enough to beat Tendulkar and had him edge a simple catch to Gilchrist behind the stumps.

It was a moment when the ground fell silent, probably realising that the series had all but slipped away.

The sight of several spectators leaving the ground didn't deter RP Singh and Zaheer Khan. Both handled the lack of pace sensibly; Zaheer, till recently a Baroda boy, even swatted two big sixes to provide some cheer.

It was the second-highest partnership of the game and proved that runs could be scored if one waited for the right ball. A score of 220 might have been competitive on this surface.

A win at Nagpur will wrap up the series for Australia. (ANI)