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September 30, 2009

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Winless Indians on the brink

AUSTRALIA reached 234 for four off 42.3 overs before heavy rain forced the abandonment of its Champions Trophy Group A match against India at Centurion on Monday.

Both teams earned a point, leaving India without a win.

Pakistan heads the group on four points and it will play Australia, on three, at Centurion on Wednesday.

India has one point from two matches and will conclude its group fixtures when it takes on the winless West Indies in Johannesburg, also on Wednesday. If Australia beats Pakistan those two teams would progress to the tournament semifinals.

Australia's innings was powered by half-centuries from Tim Paine, Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey.

Opener Paine and Ponting shared a second-wicket stand of 84 runs off 86 balls before Paine was caught by Harbhajan Singh off the bowling of leg-spinner Amit Mishra.

Paine departed for a sparkling 56 which included seven fours and a six but Ponting found a willing ally in Hussey as the pair put on 88 runs for the third wicket.

The 34-year-old Ponting played a steady hand in compiling 65 runs off 88 balls before he was run out attempting a second run thanks to a direct hit from Gautam Gambhir on the deep cover boundary.

Ponting's dismissal left Australia on 175 for three but the left-handed Hussey, who has struggled for runs recently, returned to form in scintillating style as he raced to his 23rd one-day half-century off just 45 balls. He eventually fell for 67 runs off 65 deliveries when he was caught at long-off by Sachin Tendulkar off the bowling of Ishant Sharma before heavy rain forced the players off.

Michael Clarke, meanwhile, has been ruled out of the tournament due to an injured back. Cricket Australia said Clarke would return from South Africa after succumbing to a persistent lower back problem.

"Michael has had lower back pain since the latter part of the one-day series in England," Cricket Australia physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said in a statement. "On arriving in South Africa the pain has intensified and he has not been able to participate in any of the team's training sessions."


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