India fall short despite Gambhir’s century

Sydney, February 24:

A sparkling century from Gautam Gambhir could not save India from an 18-run defeat at the hands of Australia in their tri-series match here on Sunday.

A win would have secured India a berth in the finals, but they were always struggling at the crease after several Australian batsmen returned to form in posting 317 for seven. India chased bravely and made 299 from 49.1 overs, the highest total ever by side batting second at the SCG, but it wasn’t enough with Brett Lee taking 5-58 for the home side.

With Ricky Ponting making 124, Australia, choosing to bat first on a docile wicket, posted the highest score of the series and then made early inroads with the ball. India were always struggling after star opener Sachin Tendulkar fell in the second over before they slumped to 51 for four.

Gambhir and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni revived Indian hopes by putting on 98 for the fifth wicket, before the latter was caught behind off the bowling of Brett Lee for 36.

Robin Uthappa and Gambhir then kept the score ticking over by putting on 67, but India’s hopes suffered a fatal blow when the centurion’s brave knock came to an end when he was stumped by Adam Gilchrist, who completed six dismissals, off the bowling of Brad Hogg for 113.

Earlier, Australia’s batsmen burst out of the doldrums, led by Ponting. Sparked by a flying start from Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Ponting, they hit 100 in the 12th over. Ponting reached his century from just 111 balls, with six fours and the one six.

The previously out-of-form Andrew Symonds welcomed the flat wicket to add some late innings fireworks with 59 from 49 balls, while Hayden rode his luck with a string of agricultural shots through the on-side, including a six over mid-wicket off Sharma, before being run out for 54 runs.

All the Indian bowlers were punished, with Sreesanth conceding 58 runs from eight overs and Pahan 73 from nine overs.