1st Super Six Match: Australia v India
Trevor Chesterfield - 4 June 1999
McGrath raises new Aussie spectre
No doubt the 'Pigeon Preservation Society' will issue a statement sometime later today condemning Australia and India and the next Super Six match at The Oval is likely to see placard waving demonstrators objecting to the latest form of blood sport.
Not that it is going to make any difference as The Oval outfield, known to be a long-term pasture for the feathered creatures no doubt enjoyed watching the rich pickings Australia managed when they beat India by 77 runs and earned two valuable World Cup points and boosted their run rate as well. Just the sort of victory, depending how South Africa shape against Pakistan at Trent Bridge tomorrow, to reinstate the Wizards of Oz as second favourites.
It is also doubtful, though the strapping lantern-jawed Australian known to his teammates as Pigeon, Glenn McGrath, was unable to shed a tear or two as he took on a new sobriquet, Scalpel, after his effective dismembering of the vaunted Indian top-order.
Three wickets in his first five overs left the Indians is a tad more than disarray with Sachin Tendulkar falling in the first over for a duck and Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly failing to survive too much while the captain, Mohammad Azharuddin getting a nasty lifter. Not at all nice position to be in: the faces of the heroes of past matches no doubt feeling sick looking at a scoreboard which read 17 for four.
Sure there was a spirited revival: Ajay Jadeja and Robin Singh found some batting accord after the discordant start and Singh was, at one time nicely on song when in typical slog mode he whipped 21 off an over from Shane Warne. Three big hit sixes over various fences almost saw the larger gasometer doff its cap in salute. Only it was too little and far too late for the Indian revival.
The spectators may have got their drums going, popped off a few harmless thunderflashes, blew their whistles, waved their flags and gobbled a few samoosas in salute at such swashbuckling bravado, but even the spicy promise of a special curry supper failed to rejuvenate a lost cause which had been started by McGrath's broad-shouldered swing and seam.
Australia had, in recent World Cup matches, preferred McGrath as first or second change to choke the opposing batsmen: it was a failure which put Australia under pressure. Today he extracted bounce out of a pitch in which the India pacemen failed to bother the Australian openers; he also swung the ball across the batsmen at a disconcerting pace.
Perhaps the decision to push Tendulkar into the opening role again may had added pressure to India's cause as Sadagopan Ramesh was left out to accommodate the top-order reshuffle; it was a predictable failure as it opened up new doubts about India top-order brilliance collapsing under pressure.
Whatever the analysis of India's top-order plunge into an ever-darkening abyss and what could be growing self-doubt, Australia's ascendancy is starting to show and Warnes warning of hitting the straps at the right time could well see them edging closer to a semi-final place.