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Clarke leads speedy rout

Source - theage.com.au

All the pent-up emotion of the controversial Test series combusted in the 28.5 overs it took for Australia's next-generation captain Michael Clarke to burst India's Twenty20 bubble, leaving 84,041 people at the MCG gasping for more.

Four months after India gained some attitude with its triumph at the inaugural Twenty20 world championship a bravado that has irked the Australians since Clarke made it his business to assert his country's superiority in spectacular fashion.

To sum up the anti-climax of the exhaustively hyped match, Australia's nine-wicket win was sealed with a wide.

The on-field fireworks were restricted mainly to the pyrotechnic shows before, during and after the match, although there was an anxious moment when India's theatrical fast bowler Shantha Sreesanth stopped and stared at Adam Gilchrist, who was commentating for Channel Nine while batting.

"I'm getting eyeballed by Sreesanth here. I think he thinks I'm sledging him," the retiring champion after Sreesanth finished the over with a bouncer. "That ball was too good," he said to Sreesanth. "See you for a beer later."

Harbhajan Singh, the man at the centre of the summer's race controversy, was booed heartily by the Melbourne crowd when he walked out to bat and derided when he collided with Irfan Pathan in trying to take an outfield catch.

When the catch was spilled, Harbhajan held his hands up to his ears to indicate that Pathan's calls had been drowned out by a crowd that made a din Eden Gardens would have been proud of.

Harbhajan's undignified moment was not half as embarrassing as India's collapse to be bowled out for 74 in 17.2 overs. It was the second-lowest total in the short history of Twenty20 cricket.

Clarke, who stepped up to replace Ricky Ponting when the skipper was ruled out with a back injury yesterday, exemplified the seriousness with which Australia now approaches the shortest form of the game when he dived to his left to field brilliantly at backward point off the fourth ball of India's innings and then threw down the stumps at the non-striker's end to dismiss Virender Sehwag for a duck.

The departure of the fearless Indian opener robbed the game of serious entertainment value, although the Australians' fielding performance was a sight to behold in itself. Later, Clarke took a wonderful catch at cover to dismiss Harbhajan, and he led the gobbling up of India's total in 11.3 overs with an unbeaten 37 in 36 balls.

"He (Clarke) led so well," Gilchrist said while he shot to 25 in 22 balls.

"We are taking this game more and more seriously around the world and he certainly did that in his address to the team before we came out. His tactics were outstanding."

India could not select Yuvraj Singh, one of the heroes of its Twenty20 triumph last September, because of a knee injury, and it stuck by the young and athletic team that delivered the country's first serious piece of silverware since the 1983 World Cup, leaving master batsman Sachin Tendulkar on the bench. It seemed a curious decision, given Tendulkar was the leading run-scorer in the Test series.

The story of the night was told when part-time spinner Adam Voges was on a hat-trick, and Clarke brought in every fielder to surround No. 11 Ishant Sharma for the hat-trick ball. He safely dabbed the ball down to slip, which was more than he could do in a similar situation at the end of the Sydney Test, when he was the last wicket to fall to Clarke to hand Australia a famous but controversial victory.

Last night's was Australia's first victory over India in the most abbreviated and hectic form of the game after defeats in the semi-final of the world championship in South Africa and during the heated limited-overs tour in Mumbai last October.

"He (Clarke) led so well," Gilchrist said while he shot to 25 in 22 balls.

"We are taking this game more and more seriously around the world and he certainly did that in his address to the team before we came out. His tactics were outstanding."

India could not select Yuvraj Singh, one of the heroes of its Twenty20 triumph last September, because of a knee injury, and it stuck by the young and athletic team that delivered the country's first serious piece of silverware since the 1983 World Cup, leaving master batsman Sachin Tendulkar on the bench. It seemed a curious decision, given Tendulkar was the leading run-scorer in the Test series.

The story of the night was told when part-time spinner Adam Voges was on a hat-trick, and Clarke brought in every fielder to surround No. 11 Ishant Sharma for the hat-trick ball. He safely dabbed the ball down to slip, which was more than he could do in a similar situation at the end of the Sydney Test, when he was the last wicket to fall to Clarke to hand Australia a famous but controversial victory.

Last night's was Australia's first victory over India in the most abbreviated and hectic form of the game after defeats in the semi-final of the world championship in South Africa and during the heated limited-overs tour in Mumbai last October.

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