Man-of-the-match Watson sets up third win for Australia
Despite George Bailey’s assertion that the Australian team is not totally dependent on Shane Watson, for the third game in a row it was the all-rounder who won the man-of-the-match award.
And in the process, Australia won their third successive game in the World T20 2012 to kick-start their Super Eight campaign with full points.
It has been a busy few days for the Indian skipper. Right from when India defeated England in their previous game by opting to choose five frontline bowlers instead of his tried and tested strategy of four, questions around the selection have been asked of him.
An unusually candid Dhoni, had admitted in his pre-match conference that he was left with no option but to play a similar line-up yet again. Five bowlers and a batsman short.
The decision to go with five bowlers against England was a culmination of how the side bowled against Pakistan in the warm-ups and Afghanistan in the opener.
Sehwag, who had missed out in the previous game, remained on the bench. The only change was the recall of Zaheer Khan in place of L Balaji. Not that it mattered too much in the end as India were blown away by a master-class by Shane Watson.
Earlier in the day, Australian captain George Bailey sprang a surprise at the start of the innings by handing the new ball to Glenn Maxwell instead of their usually reliable Watson.
While India played him out fairly comfortably, Watson’s second spell consisted of a wicket off the first and last ball of that over. The Indian back broken, things never improved from that stage onward.
With Sehwag out of the side, Irfan Pathan continued in his new role at the start of the batting order. He looked far more comfortable than against the English bowlers, stroking his way to 31.
India, however, lost wickets regularly. Not too many looked out of touch and yet, not one got more than Pathan’s score.
Gautam Gambhir’s attempt at racing against Patrick Cummins in a bid to get to the crease, came undone thanks to the bowler’s exceptional football skills. A kick on to the stumps on his follow-through found the Indian opener short.
Virat Kohli’s start was a decent one but Cummins was at it again, cutting it short by some brutal pace. The dismissal was set up by a delivery that pushed Kohli back before enticing him to go for a pull off the next.
The one that got him out wasn’t short. Instead it was a length ball that reared up a tad and Kohli, in no position to hook it, was sucked into going for that stroke. He was easily caught at mid-off.
Rohit Sharma fell next ball to Mitchell Starc as India slid from 2/70 to 5/74 in a space of seven balls.
Dhoni and Suresh Raina added 30 while Ashwin spanked a six and a four but India’s 140 looked a tad below-par going into the break.
This was partly because of the inclement conditions that made the ball slippery instead of slowing the track down further.
It rained in the dinner break. And the heavens opened yet again for a minute in the first over of the Australian chase.
Evidently, it made gripping the ball more difficult for the Indian spinners. There were many that were pitched short and long before the Indian bowlers found their length, the Australian batsmen had found their confidence against slow bowling.
The magnitude of hitting that followed, however, can hardly be pinned down to the rain.
Four overs into the Australian innings, they were 0/22, with Watson and Dave Warner sussing out the conditions.
Dhoni, who later said that he had erred in not taking the rain into consideration while deciding the 11, surprised with his decision to bowl R Ashwin his third over in a row.
In-form Watson, by this time, had already got his eye in and wasted no time in depositing a couple of them into the stands behind mid-wicket.
Warner, who was lucky to survive an lbw shout, joined in the act not so later and Australia ended the Powerplay overs at 0/47.
It got worse after that. Piyush Chawla’s first over was taken for a couple of sixes and Warner then sent two over deep mid-wicket for sixes again.
Irfan Pathan, usually India’s new-ball bowler, was afforded his first chance in the ninth that was taken for a couple of sixes and a four.
Yuvraj Singh came on to pick up the wicket of Watson, but by then Australia were only eight behind, which they made with more than five overs to spare.
Watson’s 72 was a 42-ball effort that consisted of seven sixes. Warner’s unbeaten 63 came from 41 balls and was propped up by three sixes in the process.
The Ashes journey begins
The Australian cricket team have left Australia to begin their tour of England, with a mission to reclaim the Ashes.
Australian captain Michael Clarke and his teammates were optimistic about their chances before jetting off.
Click here to hear the thoughts of our Australian cricket team as they left for England.