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26 January 201515:19

India’s chances brighten after SCG washout

Game between England and India on Friday becomes a direct shootout to identify Australia’s opponents in the final

India’s chances brighten after SCG washout - Cricket News

A holiday crowd, predominantly made up of Indians, had braved the morning rain, hoping for a magnificent match to unfold.

This was to have been the big-ticket match, Australia v India on a day significant in the history of both nations. A holiday crowd, predominantly made up of Indians, had braved the morning rain and an ominous cloud cover to gather at Sydney Cricket Ground, hoping against hope that the clouds would cede to the magnitude of the occasion and allow a magnificent spectacle to unfold.

Their hopes were comprehensively dashed as the triangular series witnessed its first no-result, the Australia Day-Republic Day showdown on Monday (January 26) being abandoned with just 16 overs bowled. Play began 40 minutes behind schedule, then there was a 52-minute interruption early into the Indian innings after they were put in by George Bailey. But once the skies opened up at 4.57pm local time, the rains never relented.

Long before play was officially called off at 8.06pm, the ground wore a near deserted look. India thus picked up its first points of the competition, and if it can beat England in Perth on Friday, it can still salvage something from a tour where it is still winless, and make it to next Sunday’s final against the hosts.

Australia rounded off its league engagements with 15 points, and won’t really worry too much about which of England (5 points) or India (2) makes it through to the title round.

For the record, India had reached 69 for 2, with Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli in the middle, when the players came off, never to return to the field of play again.

You would think 16 overs is too short a period to provide any definitive clues. You might be right too, had it not been for the fact that Shikhar Dhawan was dismissed cheaply for a third straight time, once again caught behind the stumps like he had been at MCG against Australia and at the Gabba against England. Dhawan made his highest score of the tri-series, but 8 from 13 balls on the back of scores of 2 and 1 in his previous two hits means India have to take a call on his presence in the playing XI immediately.

India had made its intentions clear by fielding Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja in the playing XI ahead of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav in the clearest indication yet that it is well on its way to being able to pick from a full complement. While neither man was pressed into service, the fact that they were back in the side must be construed as a positive development with the World Cup not far away.

As he has done for most of the tour, Rahane looked in pretty decent control on a surface that provided plenty of encouragement for the quicker bowlers, given that it had been under covers all morning and afternoon. The covers only came off some 20 minutes before the 3.00pm start. The pitch spiced up, there was considerable assistance for Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood – one of five changes in the Australian XI – but Rahane was a picture of confident correctness, holding his own during the first 14-minute burst before the rains arrived.

Upon resumption after the 52-minute break reduced the match to 44 overs a side, Dhawan finally looked like he might be on to something, playing crisply through offside and on. It was, however, to be nothing more than another false dawn. Starc got one to bounce that bit more from a length, Dhawan was cramped for room and he guided the ball straight into the big hands of Aaron Finch at first slip.

Rahane continued to bat with composure if not authority while Ambati Rayudu chanced his arm, uncorking one spectacular six over long-on off Mitchell Marsh before perishing to the same bowler in the next over. As he stepped out to slam Marsh over the infield, all he managed was a flailing outside edge that swirled towards the sweeper-cover fence, David Warner running some 20 yards back to hold an excellent catch.

Kohli had just about got a feel of the pitch and the bowling – he did have the occasional problem against the left-arm spin of Xavier Doherty – when the entertainment for the afternoon ended.