Ricky Ponting roared back into form, cracking a timely century, as
defending champions Australia set India a highly competitive 261-run
target to win the cricket World Cup quarterfinal here Thursday.
Ponting, who came in for heavy criticism for scoring just 102 runs
in his last five innings, showed true grit and determination during
his 118-ball 104, his 30th ODI hundred, to pull the four-time World
champions out from a precarious 150 for four to a healthy 260 for
six at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera.
It was the Australian skipper's second successive World Cup century
against India and it contained seven fours and a six.
Ponting and David Hussey (38 not out) added a valuable 55 runs for
the sixth wicket after India's pace spearhead Zaheer Khan (2-53) and
left-arm spinner Yuvraj Singh (2-44) struck in tandem to wreck the
middle-order. The Australians made the best use of the batting
Powerplay (44th-48th overs), scoring 44 runs.
India started the proceedings with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin
(2-52) prompting a watchful start from Australian openers Brad
Haddin (53) and Shane Watson (25), with only 19 runs coming off the
first five overs.
The two soon broke the shackles, Watson whipping Zaheer for a four
past the short-midwicket and in the next over, Haddin chipping
Ashwin for a six over long-on. Ashwin struck in the 10th over to
castle Watson to end the 40-run opening stand.
Ponting and Haddin then added 70 runs for the second wicket before
Yuvraj dismissed the Australian wicketkeeper with a nicely tossed-up
delivery and Suresh Raina made no mistake, taking the catch diving
forward. The dismissal triggered a mini-collapse as Haddin, Michael
Clarke (8) and Mike Hussey (3) departed quickly to reduce Australia
from 110-1 to 150-4.
With the pitch assisting the spinners, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni
in the 30th over tossed the ball to batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar,
who bowled after 14 matches. Tendulkar, who last bowled in an ODI in
2009, also against Australia in Guwahati, got some sharp turn and
was greeted by the Motera crowd with a big cheer.
The first two balls were wayward and both Clarke and Ricky Ponting
picked easy singles. The third one was an absolute beauty. It
pitched outside legstump and spun back sharply right past the face
of the bat of a flummoxed Clarke.
Tendulkar's over did impact the Australians as in the next over,
Clarke in his attempt to hit Yuvraj against the turn, gave a catch
to Zaheer Khan in the deep.
Ponting then lost Mike Hussey, bowled by a slower Zaheer delivery,
and Cameron White, caught and bowled by the left-arm seamer. The
Australian skipper found in David Hussey the right partner to get
going in the slog overs.
Ponting's innings came to an end soon after the batting Powerplay
when he, perhaps for the first time, attempted a reverse sweep. He
connected it all right but hit it straight to Zaheer Khan for a