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India eyeing victory in Mohali to stretch lead

India would be gunning for a treble of triumphs to stretch their lead.

November 1, 2009, 12:12 PM IST
India eyeing victory in Mohali to stretch lead

Mohali: Cloaked in an aura of formidability acquired from their back-to-back wins in Nagpur and Delhi, the Indian team under Mahendra Singh Dhoni would be gunning for a treble of triumphs to stretch their lead against Australia in the fourth one-dayer here on Monday.

The first three matches of the series have been sort of a statement by Dhoni's men -- that they are ready to take over as the top ODI side of the world and incumbent Australia, laid low by spate of injuries, does not look in a position to halt their rampaging hosts.

So far, India have displayed the consistency that is the hallmark of every great team and bouncing back after losing the series opener speaks volume of their resilience.

And in the last two matches, the manner -- and not merely the margin -- of their victories suggest here is a team which can win from all positions.

In the Vadodara run-feast, India nearly completed a fairytale chase. The gap between the cup and lip was eventually bridged in Nagpur where they buried their opponents under a run-mountain and the Australians have not recovered from the shellacking yet.

The comprehensive win in Nagpur was followed by a clinical victory in Delhi and the six-wicket win on a low Ferozeshah Kotla track would do a world of good to India's booming confidence.

Back in the side after a while, Yuvraj Singh proved he is not just another mindless slogger who looks vulnerable against quality spinners on turning tracks. Dhoni, on his part, once again underlined his maturity and also his growing stature as a finisher.

Since the Vadodara defeat, there has been a marked improvement in all three areas which now look in apple-pie order.

Suddenly it's a pleasant picture-perfect scenario in the pace department with Ashish Nehra continuing to impress, Ishant Sharma returning to rhythm and Praveen Kumar among the wickets.

Among their slow bowl colleagues, Ravindra Jadeja has impressed so much that front-line spinner Harbhajan Singh suddenly finds himself under pressure.

Even Dhoni conceded the other day that Harbhajan is not at his best but the off-spinner has never lacked motivation against Australia and, as his captain hopes, is maybe just one game away from being his usual self which makes him such a dreaded opponent.

"Harbhajan is bowling well even though he has not picked that many wickets. But I think he bowled well today and gained lot of confidence. Hopefully he will deliver in the next few matches," Yuvraj said of his teammate.

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Fielding is the other area where India have made rapid improvements after their slipshod show in Vadodara. Both ground fielding and catching have been impeccable so far.

The hosts have pulled up their socks in this department so much that the Australians, with a reputation for being a tidy fielding unit, have looked a lousy lot.

The improvement in these two departments notwithstanding, batting remains India's forte. Sachin Tendulkar is just 47 runs away from his 17,000th ODI runs and the batting great would like to finish the formalities here itself when he walks out to bat on Monday.

His opening partner Virender Sehwag is also in good nick even though he has not been able to convert the cameos into match-winning scores. "Viru has given us good starts in the last two games and I'm looking forward to a big century from him," Yuvraj said.

Yuvraj himself is in pristine form, pacing his innings in Delhi with amazing maturity that showed his batting is far from being one-dimensional.

"Some times I get this criticism from you guys that I cannot play well on such slow tracks. So it was great to prove you guys wrong," Yuvraj told reporters, flashing an impish smile.

In contrast, the mood in the Australian camp is of exasperation and the outfit looked jaded in absence of a number of front-line players. The visitors had already flown in two last-minute replacements to shore up the side but the absence of Brett Lee has been felt in the last two matches.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting had no qualms admitting that injuries have made life difficult for him and he himself had to open the innings in the absence of regular openers.

More than batting, injuries have laid bare the thinness of Australia's bowling resources and Ponting apparently doesn't have a quick solution in sight even though he insisted on putting the best foot forward.

"Injury has hit us hard. Lot of guys are in and out of the side. Brett (Lee) could play just one game before returning. Mitchell Johnson is only coming up now and James Hopes is not playing yet. But we have to try to get on with it and play the best game we can. We have to give 100 percent," a glum Ponting said.

Teams (From):

India: MS Dhoni (c), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Amit Mishra, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma and Sudeep Tyagi.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (c), Michael Hussey, Shane Watson, Cameron White, Moises Henriques, Shaun Marsh, Graham Manou, Doug Bollinger, Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, Jon Holland, James Hopes, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Adam Voges.

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 5046 120
2 New Zealand 2829 109
3 England 4366 104
4 South Africa 3177 102
5 Australia 3672 102
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6745 125
2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 8366 270
2 Australia 6986 269
3 England 5568 265
4 South Africa 4720 262
5 India 9349 260
see more