x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

India and Australia meet in World Cup quarter-final clash of contrasts

The Indians are uncomfortable against bounce and are up against strength, the fast bowlers, and can only look forward to their openers and spinners to win this one.

While Sehwag is doubtful, Yuvraj and Zaheer are the only bowlers who have clicked for India.
While Sehwag is doubtful, Yuvraj and Zaheer are the only bowlers who have clicked for India.

India go into their World Cup quarter-final against champions Australia on Thursday ready to face some fiery fast bowling.

The co-hosts go into this game on the back of an 80-run victory over the West Indies in Chennai.

Australia's previous match saw the end of their 34-game unbeaten World Cup run courtesy of a four-wicket defeat by fellow quarter-finalists Pakistan.

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However, the way West Indies fast bowler Ravi Rampaul took five wickets, including the prize scalp of Sachin Tendulkar with a lifting delivery, has revived the debate about India's ability to handle short-pitched bowling. While captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and in-form player Yuvraj Singh tried to play down the factor, Australia resorted to their mind games by emphasising the same.

Australia almost have no choice but to see if the old cliche holds true given an attack built around the fast bowling trio of Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson.

Johnson said is looking forward to taking on Virender Sehwag having claimed the opener's wicket nine times from 18 games. "I don't mind bowling up into his rib-cage to be honest," said Johnson though the opener was doubtful and India will take a late call on his inclusion in the playing XI.

Sehwag missed the game against West Indies after suffering an allergic reaction to a painkilling injection in his right knee.

"We are taking a call on Viru in the evening or maybe tomorrow morning before the start of the game," Dhoni said. "It's really good to have Sehwag opening the innings, because if the deliveries are short and to the body or somewhere else, he's the kind of batsman who can make the most of that kind of bowling.

"Wherever we are, the shadow of short-pitched deliveries can be seen. So I don't think it's a new strategy.

"They (Australia) definitely they have got good fast bowlers. But don't forget we have won a Test match at Perth and the last time we won at Durban (against an impressive South Africa pace attack)."

Sehwag has a phenomenal strike rate of 104 but averages only 22.65 in 27 matches against Australia and has never scored a hundred.

Johnson added: "He seems to struggle with that (short ball) a bit. It's always a good challenge to bowl to someone like that, he doesn't really use his feet but he can hit the ball hard. It will be a pretty good start to the game if we can get him early."

Ricky Ponting also hoped that his pacemen will also not allow Sehwag's opening partner Sachin Tendulkar from scoring his 100th ton together in Tests and ODIs.

Yuvraj, who has been among the wickets with his left-arm spin bowling, admitted it was clear where Australia's bowling strength lay.

"They have pace and get wickets with pace. We have to be prepared for it and we'll see what happens in the quarter-final.

"I don't think there's an issue with the short ball. If you have an issue with the short ball you won't be the number one Test team and number two ODI team in the rankings."

The Ahmedabad pitch has traditional been a batting track and only favoured turn with little bounce.

Ponting summed it up by saying, "We're more reliant on fast bowlers, they are more reliant on spinners," he said.

"We expect to be facing 30 overs of spin, they will be facing 30 overs of fast bowling, those are the strengths of both teams."

Ponting himself has a miserable tournament and had to fend off speculation on the eve of the game that it was time for him to retire.

"I've never even thought about or contemplated retiring at the end of this World Cup. You'll hopefully see me playing a lot in the next few years."

But the out-of-form captain, who scored a blistering century in the 2003 World Cup final win over India, has managed just 102 runs at 20.40 in six group matches and he hasn't made an international century for 13 months.

"I might watch the 2003 (final) video today. Especially if you are struggling, it doesn't hurt to do that every now and then," Ponting said.

"But I know that I and the team have both played our best games when we've needed to."

India, who beat Australia by 38 runs in a warm-up match in Bangalore, have got themselves into several good position this tournament only for their batsmen to throw it away.

For example nine wickets were lost for 29 runs in defeat by South Africa while seven went for 50 runs against the West Indies.

"We've noticed how they've had crashes towards the end of the innings and the differences in their career records and their records against Australia," Ponting said.