Tri-series finals: India out for revenge

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The stage is set for a thrilling conclusion to the last tri-series when the finals get underway with a clash between arch rivals Australia and India.

Updated: March 04, 2008 10:53 IST
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India will seek to exploit the batting slump of some of Australia's key batsmen when they clash with the world champions in the first of the best-of-three cricket tri-series finals on Sunday.

Australia's batting has been their Achilles' heels with their middle order, notably captain Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds, coming a cropper against the subcontinental rivals in the league stage.

Apart from the century he scored in Australia's last game against India, Ponting has been carrying the form slump from the Test series while Symonds has notched up only one half century in eight matches.

Matthew Hayden, who was recently reprimanded by his Board for calling Harbhajan Singh a "little obnoxious weed" has also not fired at the top, having scored just one half century and one in the 40s in the seven outings he has played in the tri-series.

This is a perfect setting for a confident young Indian side to cash in on their rival's weak point and and hope to put it across the home team.

Never in the 30-year-old history of the triangular series have Indians managed even a solitary win in the finals against the hosts.

India's three previous experiences -- in 1985-86, 1991-92 and 2003-04 -- had resulted in straight drubbings but Australia's slipshod form this season promises a turn for the better for the Indians.

A strategy to keep the likes of Ponting and Symonds silent could mean India again opting for a five-bowler theory tomorrow, which could mean Virender Sehwag cooling his heels in the dressing room.

Despite India's poor starts in this competition, and Sehwag's ability to win matches of his own, Mahendra Singh Dhoni does not appear to be entirely convinced of the ability of the Delhi dasher to turn the heat on in the finals.

His belief has only gained ground with the success of his bowlers. The latest recruit Praveen Kumar covered himself in glory in Hobart where he won the man-of-the-match award against Sri Lanka with a four-wicket burst.

Dhoni himself has been in excellent form, claiming record 16 dismissals in eight matches which has been the most any Indian stumper has managed from a series. The previous mark of 15 scalps belonged to Rahul Dravid during the 2003 World Cup.

One of the quiet but outstanding success of the tour for the Indians has been middle-order batsman Gautam Gambhir who is already on top of the heap with a tally of 423 runs at 70.50 from the league stage.

His crisp hitting and marvellous running between the wickets has given him scores of 39, 102 not out, 21, 35, 34, 15, 113 and 64 not out from eight outings.

Encouragingly for India, Sachin Tendulkar has given indications of returning to form with that quickfire 63 against Sri Lanka. Tendulkar has a personal mission to chase in the finals for this is his last opportunity to strike a century in a one-day international in Australia.

Ironically for all his unprecedented success, Tendulkar hasn't managed a hundred in 20 outings against Australia all these years; nor one against other teams in 38 matches in all he has played on Australian soil.

Numbers also have piled up for India not with bat, ball or in field alone. Indians also have been booked the most by match referees this summer. Four have been reported and three have been found guilty. Dhoni came close to being hauled up for using illegal wicketkeeping gloves before being let off with a reprimand alone.

The bad blood between the two teams has ensured that not a seat at the SCG would be vacant tomororow. Match referee Jeff Crowe, and the two umpires, would have to really strain hard to stop things getting out of hands in the middle.

Hayden is an automatic starter and his duel with the Indian bowlers, and fielders, would carry a spark of its own. Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds too should be subject to special attention in the field from the Indians, as it would be the likes of Harbhajan Singh and Sreesanth from the Australians.

The conditions at the SCG are likely to help the batsmen though the wicket was pretty damp to start with this afternoon. Hot blazing sun for the rest of the day and tomorrow is predicted which would allow the batsmen to come on to their own.

Teams: (From)

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Praveen Kumar, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan, S. Sreesanth, Virender Sehwag, Munaf Patel, Piyush Chawla.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (Capt), Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Mike Hussey, James Hopes, Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Nathan Bracken, Mitchell Johnson, Brad Haddin, Brad Hogg.

Match starts 8.45 am IST.

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