ICL: Indian Cricket League

Rain plays spoilsport after Clarke sets up a contest


clarkeMichael Clarke returned to the scene of his triumphant debut and finessed another magnificent century, but rain then played spoilsport in the opening match of the Future Cup. Australia recovered from a Sreesanth-induced wobbly spell to post an imposing 307 for 7 and Mitchell Johnson then sent Sachin Tendulkar packing for a blob before the heavens opened and the prospect of a gripping contest was washed away.

After Australia slumped to 90 for 4, Brad Haddin had played the support role perfectly, adding 144 with Clarke. As the afternoon wore on and the boundary count grew, India encountered a reality check after the euphoria of the Twenty20 World Cup win. Clarke got going with some delightful clips off the pads against Zaheer Khan, adding 60 with Matthew Hayden for the third wicket after both Indian new-ball bowlers had struck early.

After Sreesanth had left the innings rocking, it was Clarke and Haddin that rebuilt it, patiently at first and then with considerable flair and aggression. After taking 68 balls for his 50, Clarke cruised to three figures in just another 40 deliveries, playing some gorgeous shots off his pads in the process.

There was a stunning glance-on-the-walk against Irfan Pathan, and peachy on-drive off Zaheer before a dismal full toss from Ramesh Powar was swatted over the square-leg rope. Haddin’s dismissal, stumped trying to give Yuvraj the mow, didn’t stem the Clarke tide either, and another full toss from Powar was dismissed over midwicket to herald his patented helmet-badge-kissing celebration.

The new rules that allowed for a ball change after 34 overs made little difference as Australia turned it on. Haddin was no less effective, hitting down the ground and through the covers with power and timing, and picking off the leg-side gaps effortlessly each time the bowlers erred. The pair ran the singles easily too, against an Indian side that were again less than electric in the field.

Towards the end, even Sreesanth went for plenty as James Hopes came in and hinted at all-round potential with a punishing 37-run cameo. With Clarke eyeing the straight boundary, India wilted as 87 came from the final 10 overs. Clarke was run out for 130 off the final ball, but by then, his heroics had almost banished any memory of Australia’s initial vulnerability.

The pitch may have been placid, but Sreesanth certainly wasn’t early on. Sensibly though, he let the ball do the talking. Prior to the game, he had spoken of how much contests against Australia meant to the players, and how he himself feared no one. Talk though is essentially cheap, but Sreesanth backed it up with some fiery bowling, clocking 147 km/hr at one stage.

Neither he nor India had started well though. After a chorus of boos had greeted the batsmen, Adam Gilchrist started with his usual panache, jabbing through cover and then glancing for fours, and it took a stupendous catch from Yuvraj Singh to give India some respite. Zaheer offered some width, Gilchrist tore into it, and most eyes were already on the backward-point rope when Yuvraj threw himself to his right to take it with both hands.

Both Sreesanth and Zaheer were erratic with their line, and the batsmen couldn’t settle, and after a couple of scattergun wides, it was Sreesanth that struck with a superb delivery to Brad Hodge that swung in to the pad. That brought Clarke to the crease, and Sreesanth wasn’t too shy to have some words when he played a couple of streaky shots.

But with Clarke clipping Zaheer beautifully through midwicket and Hayden emerging from a circumspect start to muscle them away, the runs quickly mounted. Rudra Pratap Singh, India’s Twenty20 hero, came on, but was treated disdainfully by Hayden, who cover-drove and pulled him for four before a miscued pull went down to fine leg for six.

By the first drinks break, Australia were cruising, but as so often happens, the break in play upset a batsman’s concentration. Sreesanth came round the wicket and angled one in, and Hayden’s scything attempt connected only with air. The stands erupted, but better was to follow for those of an Indian persuasion as Sreesanth struck again.

This time, the victim was Andrew Symonds, big-hitting dangerman utterly deceived by the change of pace. The slow loopy delivery appeared to take an eternity to reach him, and he played all around it. When the appeal was upheld, Sreesanth thumped the turf in delirious celebration.

With the crowd chanting Sreesanth’s name, Haddin was greeted with a fast beamer - an apology duly followed - and the momentum was certainly with India as the Powerplays ended. Powar nearly had Haddin with a splendid loopy offspinner, but it missed both the stumps and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s gloves. Haddin was on 7 then, and it would prove a costly miss.

Clarke also enjoyed a reprieve when on 31 after a vociferous leg-before appeal from Pathan was turned down. Clarke had wandered out of the crease, and Dhoni’s underarm throw missed the stumps much to Australia’s relief. Both batsmen cashed in too, coming down the crease to Powar and giving him something to think about. Clarke thumped him down to the sightscreen for four and Haddin then cleared the rope, and Australia had once again transformed a crisis into a cruise. Even they couldn’t do anything about the rain though.

Source:Cricket News

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This entry was posted on Sunday, September 30th, 2007 and is filed under General, Cricket.

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