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Fri Feb 14 2003
Issue No: 153

India too strong for battling Netherlands at Paarl

It was not the best of starts. Neither was it the worst of starts. At Paarl on Wednesday, India went on to thrash Netherlands by 68 runs. However, the failure of their batsmen to last the full 50 overs meant that their think-tank weren't rid of their worries. Also glaring was the helplessness of the bowlers for well over 20 overs to dismiss the Netherlands' batsmen despite having reduced them to 54/7 in the 22nd over. After Sourav Ganguly won the toss and elected to bat in the morning, all the batsmen, Sachin Tendulkar (52 off 72 balls) included, struggled. In the circumstances, it took a 42 off 49 balls by Dinesh Mongia and a 37 off 56 balls from Yuvraj Singh to help India post 204 all out in 48.5 overs. For Netherlands, Tim de Leede claimed four wickets for 35 runs. Inspite of his fine showing, though, Netherlands weren't destined to go the whole hog. Javagal Srinath 4-30 and Anil Kumble 4-32 got among the wickets and this meant that even a patient 62 off 116 balls from 20-year-old Daan Van Bunge failed to get them to even within hailing distance of the Indian total.

India backing their spinners against Australia

India look set to play two spinners against Australia in their World Cup Group A match on Saturday in a bid to unsettle the defending champions. "We have to play to our strengths and we have two high-quality spinners in Harbhajan (Singh) and (Anil) Kumble," captain Sourav Ganguly said on Thursday. "We have to make the best possible use of them."

India, shock winners of the 1983 World Cup, will be mindful that Harbhajan inspired them to become the last team to beat Australia in a Test series, coming from behind to win 2-1 at home in 2001. Off-spinner Harbhajan captured 32 wickets in that series, dismissing Australia's current one-day captain Ricky Ponting five times in a row.

Experienced leg-spinner Anil Kumble, who took four for 32 on Wednesday as the Netherlands were bowled out for 136, backed himself and Harbhajan to shine against Australia. "Slow bowlers will definitely have a big role to play against Australia," he said. "Harbhajan is bowling well and the heat and slower pitches will suit us."

Australia, however, will be favourites to secure their second straight win of the tournament, having beaten 1999 finalists Pakistan by 82 runs at The Wanderers on Tuesday.

In recent years, India's strength has been their batting with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly and Rahul Dravid to the fore but they have struggled in their last few series, especially away from home. South African pitches generally suit seam bowlers with their bounce and pace so India's plan to play two spinners against Australia will be a gamble.

Ganguly is mentally lazy - Greg Chappell

Australian legend Greg Chappell has criticised Sourav Ganguly's approach to the game, terming the Indian captain to be "mentally lazy". "Sourav Ganguly has always looked prone to mental laziness and continues to squander a wonderful talent," Chappell wrote in his column for the Press Trust of India. "He has always looked ... as if it is below him to work on developing his talents. A great shame!" the former Australian skipper went on to add. Chappell also came down heavily on the Indian batting performance against Netherlands on Wednesday. "Indian batting in that game was at best patchy," said Chappell. "Holland boast a modest attack but the Indian batsmen played without conviction on a good wicket. The Indian (batting) line-up needs to be more convincing than this if they want to get to the final. Australia's attack in the next match will test them more sternly than did Holland's."

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For a cricketer reputed for his cerebral skills, it is a surprise that Mike Brearley never made a Test century. Indeed, his highest score of 91 came against India on this day in 1977, batting against Bedi, Chandrasekhar and Prasanna at Bombay, staying 311 minutes at the crease for his runs.

India and Australia have played many a nail-biter in World Cups. The clash between the two sides on Saturday then has more than a fair chance of offering edge-of-the-seat excitement. Keep track of it all - as and when it happens - with's ball-by-exciting-ball coverage of the match.

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"It just requires a few deliveries for a bloke like Tendulkar to get into the groove and we have played him enough in the past to know what a great player he is. We are most worried about him," Ricky Ponting, ahead of the Australia-India clash

"When you play the best team in the world you feel confident. When you play against them you perform better,"Harbhajan Singh, ahead of the clash against Australia

"It will be crucial for India to claim early wickets against Australia. If they succeed in removing Hayden, Gilchrist and Ponting cheaply, we might well have the pleasure of witnessing an Indian win," Suresh Kumar

India have won both the games that they have played at the SuperSport Park, Centurion, the venue of their next World Cup match against Australia.

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