Sachin and Praveen script a historic Indian win

March 4th, 2008 - 8:46 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Harbhajan Singh

Brisbane, March 4 (IANS) Yet another sizzler of an innings from maestro Sachin Tendulkar (91) and a sensational bowling performance from rookie pacer Praveen Kumar (4 for 46) set up a thrilling nine-run win for India in the very last over of the second final of the Commonwealth Bank series. It also completed for India a magnificent 2-0 triumph over formidable Australia in what was supposed to be a ‘Best of Three’ final. In a series wracked by controversies and a lot of acrimony, the title compensated India for the loss in the Test series, and particularly for the Sydney scandal, where the entire cricketing world felt India had been let down badly by the umpires.

The loss on Tuesday to India was without doubt a big blow to the Australians who have been ranked No. 1 for more than a decade and a half. The last time Australia surrendered back-to-back ODI finals was in 1983-84 and 1984-85 against the West Indies.

After Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss, Tendulkar, who scored a century in the first half, came within nine runs of a second successive ton. But his 91 - the foundation for a 94-run opening stand with Robin Uthappa (30) — set the stage for a big Indian score.

Gautam Gambhir (15) frittered a decent enough start and then Yuvraj Singh (38) seemed in a great nick and he helped Tendulkar take the score to 175 for two in the 35th over. Yuvraj Singh perished when he needlessly tried to heave another one out of the ground, even though the going was good.

Thereafter the Indians were unable to build on that early advantage. Tendulkar was the next to go caught brilliantly by Rickey Ponting, when nine short of his 43rd ODI century - and what could have been his second successive ODI century - and the total reading 205 for four.

Rohit Sharma (1) and Irfan Pathan (12) did not last too long, but Dhoni seemed well-set. However, like Gambhir and then Yuvraj, Dhoni, too, threw away his wicket. Dhoni chipped out a ball from inside the line but did not get enough of the bat and gave Michael Clarke a comfortable catch. He was gone for 36 in a total at 240.

With the tailenders getting the odd swipe India reached 258 for nine when the overs ran out.

On a wicket like this where even a score of 258 did not look safe, the Australians needed to get it to keep the series alive. For the first time the Australians looked under tremendous pressure and after having been outplayed at Sydney, they needed to revive their tough image and position of pre-eminence in world cricket.

For the second time in as many matches, Dhoni gambled and gave Praveen the new ball and the youngster proved his skipper right.

Praveen, playing in only his fifth one-dayer, gave India a dream start getting rid of Adam Gilchrist off the third ball of the innings. Gilchrist, playing his last international match for Australia, nicked one to Dhoni and the Indian skipper gleefully accepted that. Gilchrist, without waiting for the umpire, walked. It was the end of a great career and Australia, at 2 for one, were already in a mess.

Praveen followed that up with Ponting’s wicket in his second over, the third of the innings, when the Australian skipper, who admitted to be under pressure, went for a horrendous pull that did not work. Instead he handed Yuvraj a catch at mid-on after failing to getting the shot full. Eight for two and the Indians were thrilled.

Into the ninth over, Praveen struck a third time. He castled Michael Clarke with a delivery that kept low and straight. It beat the batsman’s defences and rocked Australia into 32 for three.

Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden, each of who had run-ins Harbhajan Singh, set to repair the damage. They had put on 89 and were beginning to look worrisome for India.

Then came a great stroke of luck and fine fielding. Symonds pushed Harbhajan into the covers and Yuvraj pounced on it in a flash. He threw it back to Harbhajan at the non-striker’s end and Hayden (55) was unable to make his ground back in time. AT 121 for four, it was India on the roll.

Two deliveries and two runs later, Symonds was caught leg before to Harbhajan, his old nemesis. At five down for 123 Australia were now staring down the barrel. And Harbhajan was cock-a-hoop. He had snared his enemy once again.

But in Mike Hussey (44) and James Hopes (63) Australia found new saviours, or at least it seemed so. Over the next 15 overs or so, they kept the aggressive Indians at bay and came close to 200. One short of that mark Sreesanth bowled wide and short, but Hussey cut it hard, and only succeeded in snicking it to Dhoni.

Then Brett Lee have Hopes company and together they reached 228, when Praveen Kumar once again came to India’s rescue. A slower one saw Lee trying to hit across the line but he missed and was clean bowled. Ten runs later another short one from Sreesanth had Mitchell Johnson edge to Dhoni to make it 238 for eight with 10 deliveries.

Next to go was Bracken who smashed one from Irfan Pathan high in the air at mid-wicket where Piyush Chawla ran back to hold a fine catch with his second grasp. Now just one wicket separated India from the win. Australia needed 12 runs needed from four balls.

Hopes, the last Aussie hope, got two and then off the fourth ball of the last over, he tried to hit a Pathan delivery on the off over mid-on. But only succeeded in sending it to Chawla, who held another great catch to complete the victory.

Then it was a mad scramble, hugs, uprooted stumps and celebrations, while the Australians trudged back with long faces and disappointment writ large on their face.

A ODI series win in Australia meant Dhoni and his men had conquered another frontier

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