India 249-8 Australia 252-4: Martyn and McGrath send Australia into semi-finals

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The Independent Online

One of the dictums of modern cricket is that the sub-continent in general and India in particular makes up the game's power base. All that money, at least in India's case, and all those fans desperate to watch, at least on television.

Lately, the subcontinent in general and India in particular have flexed their muscles and occasionally threatened to take their bat home if they cannot have their own way. After years of virtual subjugation they have the tools to stand up for themselves. What is needed to be a proper power base, of course, goes a little further. It needs a winning team. Instead of which, the Champions Trophy moved into the semi-finals yesterday without a representative from the subcontinent.

India, the last hope, were eliminated by losing their last group match. There was the odd hiccup but Australia won pretty much as they liked. The margin was six wickets with 4.2 overs unbowled but as soon as they had restricted India to 249 for 7 and launched a rampant assault against some uncontrolled new ball bowling they were, as they say, in the pound seats. The 300 rupee seats (minimum) occupied by a rare full house were soon being vacated while Damien Martyn accumulated an unbeaten 73 from 104 balls.

Australia will be extremely tough to beat now in a competition they have, bizarrely, never won. But it was a huge blow for a tournament which needed India to reach the semi-finals. The stadiums for the final three matches of the mini-World Cup will be deserted.

The reason for the under-performance is that the sub-continental sides have been forced to play on virtually alien pitches, full of swing and seam movement, in their autumn. Method and application were lacking.

With India it may be something more: captaincy, coaching or a tendency to be too easily satisfied, according to some. They needed more 50 more runs but squandered sound starts. Their bowlers are up to it only in patches.

Australia were typically robust. Glenn McGrath, recently bereft of form, took 2 for 34 in 10 beautifully disciplined overs and removed Sachin Tendulkar. He is warming up for something and it is not the Champions Trophy semi-final.

Champions Trophy draw


Australia v New Zealand (Mohali, Wednesday)

West Indies v South Africa (Jaipur, Thursday)

* FINAL Mumbai, Sunday 5 Nov