Michael Hussey scored his third consecutive half century of the series to guide Australia to a par total of 229 for 5 on a slow and turning wicket at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Hussey scored a well paced 81 not out from 82 balls with just 3 fours but did pull off a six in the final over from Ashish Nehra. Earlier, he had put on a partnership of 56 with Skipper Ricky Ponting, who scored 59 from 92 balls.
India should be fancying their chances of moving 2-1 up in this third ODI at Delhi as the target set for their powerful batting line-up may not be sufficient. Australia will need to strike early and in particular get the wicket of Virender Sehwag before he does any damage to the target. Australia won the toss and opted to bat first and were prepared to work hard for their runs rather than going after the bowling on what was a tricky pitch. The Indian side remained unchanged while the injury-struck Aussies made three changes. Moises Henriques, Graham Manou and Doug Bollinger came in for Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine and Ben Hilfenhaus. Henriques and Manou are on their ODI Debut today.
Ricky Ponting promoted himself as an opener and along with Watson gave an ideal start. The pair put on 72 runs in 16.2 over before MS Dhoni pulled off a brilliant stumping off Yuvraj Singh to send back Watson (41 from 59 balls with 5 fours) to the pavilion. Once the ball became old and soft, it was too difficult to send it across to the boundaries and runs were trickling in only ones and twos for the second wicket pair of Ponting and Hussey. Ponting worked his way to a half century but couldn’t do bigger damage as he got lbw for the second time in this series to the young left arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja. Ponting had played all around a full ball around his middle stump to perish at 128 for 2 in the 32nd over. An over after that, India were very lucky to get Cameron White given caught behind when the ball had only brushed his pad to a Raina off break.
There was a danger of wickets falling between the 30th and the 40th over but Hussey held the innings well along with Adam Voges. The scoring rate wasn’t that great and when the need came to up the ante, Voges (17 from 31 balls holed out in the deep off Harbhajan. Even in the slog overs, it wasn’t easy for Australia to plunder the runs and it required Hussey to stay there right till the end. India did well to keep them down to 229 for 5 and in particular they kept the Aussies down to just the 36 runs in the batting powerplay taken during the final five overs of the innings.
MS Dhoni used as many as four spinners and all of them did well in strangulating the Australia batsmen. Harbhajan and Jadeja were the pick of them taking two wickets each. The pitch is on the slower and lower side while taking plenty of turn but what could favour the Indians is the dew under the lights. The pitch could get damp slightly and the ball might come onto the bat better. The wet outfield could also prove a headache for the bowlers in gripping the ball. One problem that India have is an injury to Gautam Gamhir, who was struck on the side of his neck by a pull shot from Ponting. Gambhir had left the field and had never come back.