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Rain hampers India's ambitions

Ian Gould & Harbhajan Singh

Harbhajan Singh looks on as rain brings to a close India's hopes of beating Australia at Centurion tonight

India’s hopes of qualifying for the ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals hang by a thread after their game against Australia was abandoned due to heavy rain at Centurion.

Only 42.3 overs were possible in the Group A clash with Ricky Ponting’s side amassing 234 for four thanks largely to half centuries from Tim Paine, Michael Hussey and the captain himself.

But a violent thunderstorm then struck towards the end of the innings, flooding large parts of the outfield and forcing umpires Billy Bowden and Ian Gould to declare the match a no-result.

It means that both teams were awarded a point each with Australia moving to three in the group, one behind leaders Pakistan, while India and West Indies prop up the table with one point and no points respectively.

It leaves India with a tall order to progress to the last four, as they will first need to defeat West Indies on Wednesday while hoping Australia lose to Pakistan, who have qualified as a result of tonight’s result.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side’s hopes, however, are complicated by a vastly inferior run rate to Australia.

On the field, India made a much-improved start compared to that against Pakistan with Ashish Nehra and Praveen Kumar, in the team in place of RP Singh, bowling impressively to the openers after Ponting won the toss and opted to take first strike.

And it showed with Shane Watson removed for duck – the all-rounder undone while trying to pull away a Nehra bouncer and was easily caught by Harbhajan Singh at midwicket.

Tim Paine & Harbhajan Singh

Tim Paine looks on as Harbhajan steadies himself for an easy catch at midwicket to see off the batsman before rain brought proceedings to a close at Centurion

The introduction of Ishant Sharma, though, broke the shackles as Paine and Ponting took 16 from his first over and then brought up their 50 partnership from 52 balls.

The Australia wicketkeeper then raised his half-century from 51 deliveries with a cheeky reverse sweep off Harbhajan, but was out for 56 when he mistimed a conventional sweep off Amit Mishra straight to Harbhajan at midwicket.

It was 128 for two at the halfway stage with Hussey and Ponting going nicely – the pair adding fifty for the third wicket with the captain reaching his fifty from 67 balls.

However, an excellent direct hit from Gautam Gambhir in the cover boundary region ended the partnership at 88 and brought Ponting’s innings of 65 from 88 balls to a conclusion after he attempted a second run and was run-out at the non-strikers end.

Hussey, who was joined by Cameron White, then brought up a handy half-century from 45 balls as his side reached 200 in the 37th over.

The pair shared fifty in the same number of balls, but were pegged back when Hussey found Sachin Tendulkar at long off to fall for 67.

White, who made his way to 35 not out, had just got going when the rain came in and forced a premature end to proceedings.