1st Super Six Match: Australia v India
Tony Cozier in London - 4 June 1999
Just as he did last Sunday against the West Indies, and just as his captain Steve Waugh said he would, Glenn McGrath settled Australia's opening match in the World Cup Super Sixes, and almost certainly India's fate, within his first four overs at the Oval yesterday.
Five days ago, the fiery fast bowler despatched Sherwin Campbell, Jimmy Adams and, prize of prizes, Brian Lara inside his first five overs to leave the West Indies foundering at 20 for three, a situation from which they could not recover.
Routed for 110 and beaten by six wickets, they made their early exit from the tournament.
He and Damien Fleming, his new ball accomplice, similarly despatched India's top order that contained Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly, the only three batsmen in the tournament with hundreds to their name, and captain Mohammed Azharuddin.
India were set an imposing target once Australia amassed 282 for six from their 50 overs after they were sent in.
Mark Waugh, with a polished 83 off 99 balls with a six and eight fours, set the foundations with left-hander Adam Gilchrist (31) in an opening stand of 97 in 20.4 overs and the remaining batting built on it.
Once India found themselves 17 for four in the seventh over after McGrath's early blitz, they were never in with a chance.
They saved themselves the embarrassment of the West Indies by reaching 205 and carrying the innings through to the second ball of the penultimate over.
It was at least some entertainment for a sell-out crowd of 18 000, even for the disappointed Indian supporters. But it left pointless India with little chance of advancing to the semifinals.
They and Australia did not bring any points from the first round into the Super Sixes while the other qualifiers, Pakistan and Zimbabwe with four each, and South Africa and New Zealand with two each, have a head start.
After a slow start, in which they were beaten by New Zealand and Pakistan, the Australians are beginning to justify the pre-tournament odds that made them second favourites to South Africa.
India's batting has been so consistently high-scoring so far that even Australia's powerful total did not seem too much. It took 6.4 overs to realise it would be out of reach.
Supported by the aggressive field placing of three slips and a gully, McGrath conjured up two late outswingers that removed India's celebrated champion, Tendulkar, in his first over for a fourth ball duck, and the in-form Dravid, century-maker twice over in the first round, in his second over for two, both to edged catches to wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist.
Fleming then induced an inside-edge back into his stumps from the left-handed Ganguly, along with Dravid the only batsman with over 300 runs in the first round, leaving the fired-up McGrath to bounce out India's susceptible captain Azharuddin who fended off a lobbed catch to gully.
Unlike the West Indies, India did recover from the straits of 17 for four in the seventh over through a fifth-wicket partnership of 147 between Ajay Jadeja and the Trinidad-born left-hander Robin Singh, the only West Indian, along with officiating umpire, Steve Bucknor, still in the tournament.
Jadeja, with wristy strokeplay and electric running between the wickets, completed yet another Indian hundred, a flawless, even 100 off 138 balls with two sixes and seven fours.
Singh, born, raised and taught his early cricket in Trinidad before emigrating to the land of his forefathers 16 years ago, aged 20, played with the confidence and common sense the West Indies could have used last Sunday for 75.
But it was always a forlorn chase for India, satisfying only for the destruction of Shane Warne.
On a television programme the night before, former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar dismissed the leg-spinner as ``an open book that holds no problems for the Indian batsmen who have read it over and over''.
Singh, with two long, leg-side sixes over the huge outfield, and Jadeja, with one, in an over that yielded 21, seemed keen to support Gavaskar's braggadocio.
Once Singh was out to a catch to long-leg off a hook off medium-pacer Tom Moody, the only interest was whether Jadeja would secure his deserved 100.
He just did. India were long since as dead, metaphorically, as two outfield pigeons were, actually, when hit by the ball.
The death of two birds in one day was thought to be a World Cup record. In spite of early morning showers that delayed the start for quarter of an hour, the white ball did not behave as erratically as it has often done previously and as Azahruddin obviously expected it would. Only when Singh, the middle-order all-rounder the West Indies lacked, claimed Waugh to a catch at long-leg and Ricky Ponting, played on, with his right-arm swing within four balls of each other in the 31st over did the Australian innings stutter.
It picked up again through a stand of 60 between left-hander Darren Lehmann and Waugh (M) and was given the right finishing touches by Michael Bevan's 22 off 27 balls that included a straight six off Anil Kumble and Tom Moody's unbeaten 26 off 20 balls.
It was a performance that will make Australia's remaining opponents, surprising Zimbabwe and favourites South Africa, decidedly wary.
Source: The Express (Trinidad)