Rattled by a blistering Australian batting onslaught, India succumbed to the pressure of chasing a huge total as the world champions made amends for the Gwalior debacle with a comfortable 77-run victory in the TVS Cup triangular series match at Mumbai today.
Chasing a challenging 287 for victory, the Indians never really recovered from the early jolts despite valiant knocks by Sachin Tendulkar (68) and Rahul Dravid (59) to be bowled out for 209 with 3.4 overs to spare in what turned out to be rather one-sided floodlit encounter.
The Aussies not only erased memories of their 37-run defeat in Gwalior last Sunday but also jumped to the top of the table with 13 points from three outings while the Indians had eight points to their credit from as many matches. New Zealand, the third team in the fray, were at the bottom of the table with three points.
The visitors outplayed the Indians in their own backyard in all departments of the game despite losing the in-form Matthew Hayden for a first-ball duck on a track which provided some assistance to the bowlers.
Electing to bat, Damien Martyn led the Australian batting assault with a rollicking 100 capitalising on some wayward bowling by the hosts while Andrew Symonds (48), Michael Bevan (42), Adam Gilchrist (41) and Ricky Ponting (31) came up with useful contributions to leave the fully-packed Wankhede Stadium in a daze.
The Indian run chase began on a disastrous note with opener Virender Sehwag perishing in the very first ball off speedster Nathan Bracken who produced a lively opening spell.
Sehwag was trapped in front of the wicket as the Bracken delivery came in sharply with the batsman offering no stroke.
The stylish V.V.S. Laxman, who joined the action after Sehwag's first-ball departure, did not have a memorable 29th birthday as he never really looked comfortable in the middle being beaten outside the off-stump umpteen times.
Batting maestro Tendulkar, playing in front of his home crowd, was also a pale shadow of himself as he struggled with his timing though he did produce some glorious strokes on both sides of the wicket.
Tendulkar and Laxman added 38 runs for the second wicket before paceman Andy Bichel struck another vital blow for the visitors in his very first over by removing Laxman for a 36-ball 21.
The Hyderabad batsman had himself to blame for his dismissal as he fished at an outgoing delivery and Gilchrist made no mistake behind the stumps much to the delight of his teammates.
The hosts were precariously placed at 38 for two in the tenth over before Tendulkar and captain Dravid tried to salvage the situation with a 99-run third wicket partnership which kindled hopes of an Indian fightback.
While Tendulkar was a little scratchy, Dravid seemed to be in very good knock as he launched his innings with two glorious boundaries off Bichel.
With the Wankhede track providing turn and bounce to the spinners, both the batsmen found it difficult to accelerate the pace of scoring as the required run rate kept mounting after every over.
Tendulkar and Dravid had no option but to try out some innovative strokes and the strategy did fetch them some runs. The local hero notched up his 63rd half century in one-day internationals when he steered spinner Brad Hogg to the third man boundary giving his home crowd something to cheer about.
Just when the two experienced batsmen were looking to put the Indian innings back on track, Michael Clark, who was inducted into the team in place of Ian Harvey, struck a major blow by capturing the prized wicket of Tendulkar.
Tendulkar paid the price for trying a rather ambitious stroke only to see his stumps being dislodged. Tendulkar's 76-ball 68 contained ten boundaries.
The hosts never recovered from the setback of losing Tendulkar at the mid-way stage of the innings as they kept losing wickets at regular intervals to allow the Aussies to tighten their grip on the match.
The home team lost the wickets of Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif in quick succession to slump to a jittery 172 for five by the 36th over.
Bracken (4/29), who also bowled very well against the Kiwis in Faridabad, and spinner Clark ((4/42) were the main wreckers of the Indian innings which folded up for 209 in 46.2 overs.
Earlier, the determined Australians turned on the heat from the very first over against the hosts and later Martyn (100) gave ample proof of his batting skills to steer his team to a commanding total.
The Indians never really looked like containing the Kangaroos after Gilchrist's early blitzkrieg provided the perfect launching pad for the assault. The visitors could have put up a few more runs on the board but for a dramatic last over by Ajit Agarkar (4/37) which saw four wickets falling, including that of centurion Martyn.
The Australians lost in-form opener Hayden for a first-ball duck in Zaheer Khan's erratic first over which saw as many as four wides as the left-arm seamer struggled to control the swing.
But the early dismissal of Hayden, who holds the Test record of highest individual score, did not deter the world champions from unleasing an array of strokes with the hard-hitting Gilchrist being particularly severe on Zaheer who looked totally off-colour in his first spell.
Gilchrist virtually tore the bowling to shreds in the company of his captain Ponting as the visitors raced to the 50-mark in just five overs to push the home team on the backfoot.
The reliable Martyn then took centrestage as he paced his innings brilliantly to not only torment the Indian bowlers but also put his team in the driver's seat.
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