New Delhi: An implausible 148-run partnership between Yuvraj Singh and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni sailed India through the turbulent 3rd ODI, beating Australia by 6-wickets and, thus, taking a 2-1 lead in the 7-match Hero Honda Cup series on Saturday.
Interestingly, this is also the 100th ODI between the two teams, and the first day-night match ever of the stadium.
After Australia posted a competitive 229/5 largely built around Michael Hussey’s unbeaten 81, Yuvraj (78) and Dhoni (71 not out) played their innings brilliantly to guide the team home with 10 balls to spare in a relatively low-scoring contest.
Both the batsmen started cautiously on a difficult Feroz Shah Kotla strip before unleashing a barrage of strokes in a record fourth wicket partnership, which took the game away from the hapless visitors.
The capacity crowd at the Kotla burst into celebrations as Suresh Raina hit Mitchell Johnson to the boundary to bring about the winning runs, leaving the world champions in a daze.
Yuvraj and Dhoni stitched a record 148-run partnership against Australia in India, eclipsing the previous best of 119 between Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir in the last game in Nagpur.
The dashing left hander perished after putting India within sniffing distance of victory, but Dhoni ensured that there were no further hiccups.
Both the teams will now travel to Mohali for the fourth game to be played on Monday.
Indian openers milked 12 runs off the first over with Sachin Tendulkar hitting Mitchell Johnson for two boundaries – one past cover and the other clipped to the square leg boundary.
Playing in front of his home crowd, Virender Sehwag (11), however, looked strangely subdued. Even when he middled the ball, he did not find gaps and to make it worse, the hard-hitting opener was hit on his foot by a Peter Siddle yorker in the eighth over which had him in pains, needing the physio’s attention.
When play resumed, Sehwag slashed Johnson for his only four but three balls later, he had his middle stump uprooted by a Johnson express that simply crashed through his defence.
Hit on his neck while fielding that prompted him to leave field, Gambhir walked out to hearty applause but he too found boundaries were not easy to come by as the Australians maintained stiffling line and length and did not hesitate to throw themselves around to cut short boundaries.
It took India 13.2 overs to reach 50 and a batting collapse was just round the corner with Johnson again in the thick of things as it was a rude shock for the hosts who slumped from the comfort of 37 for no loss to 53 for three inside 16 overs.
Tendulkar, who was content running hard between wicket in absence of easy boundaries, could not beat Johnson’s direct throw from mid-off and perished in his quest for a risky single.
It was a sad end to his 47-ball knock of 32 and Tendulkar didn’t even wait for the third umpire’s verdict before starting the long walk back.
Two runs later, Nathan Hauritz’s second delivery turned sharply to beat Gambhir’s (6) defence and clipped off-stump to silence the entire stadium.
The team in dire strait, captain Dhoni joined Yuvraj in the middle with a herculean task ahead of them and both showed willingness to toil for every run as boundaries dried up.
Both Yuvraj and Dhoni played cautiously as they went about the job of rebuilding the innings and were quite content to keep the scoreboard moving with gentle pushes and nudges.
Yuvraj picked up young Moises Henriques for special treatment by clobbering him for a six and a delectable boundary in the same over. In the very next over, he spanked Adam Voges for a six and a four off consecutive deliveries to notch up his 42nd ODI half century.
Earlier, electing to bat, Australia were well served by Hussey who gauged the conditions well to crack an unbeaten 81 while Ponting produced a fighting 59 to steer the visitors to a competitive 229 for five.
While Shane Watson (41) also chipped in with an useful contribution, none of the other batsmen could hang around for long on a pitch which was not conducive for strokeplay.
Ponting, opening the innings for only the second time in his career, and Shane Watson provided a solid start to the innings with both the batsmen playing cautiously on the slow track.
Watson, however, began on an aggressive note by square cutting paceman Praveen Kumar to the point boundary in the last ball of the opening over of the day.
Both Ponting and Watson curbed their natural strokeplay and took their time to adjust to the low bounce of the pitch which had produced a number of low-scoring matches during the recent Champions League.
The two Aussie openers were showing signs of accelerating the pace of scoring when part-timer Yuvraj provided the breakthrough to the home team.
Watson was smartly stumped by Dhoni as he stretched forward to counter the spin which brought an end to the 72-run opening partnership. His knock of 41 was studded with five boundaries.
The experienced Hussey then joined his captain in the middle and the two seasoned players went about consolidating the position for the team with a risk-free approach.
Ponting, who looked quite comfortable at the middle, soon notched up his 72nd ODI half-century but could not survive long after that as he fell prey to Jadeja.
Ponting was trapped in front of the wicket by a Jadeja delivery which kept a trifle low and umpire Sanjay Hazare had no hesitation in ruling him out.
The hosts struck in the very next over when another part-timer Raina evicted Cameron White with Dhoni taking the catch after fumbling for a long time. White was, however, distinctly unlucky as the television replays showed that the ball had hit his pads before going to Dhoni.
From a comfortable 128 for one, the visitors suddenly slumped to 129 for three, bringing some life back into the game.
Voges joined the action after White’s brief stay at the wicket and took the score to 172 before becoming Harbhajan Singh’s first victim with Praveen latching on to a brilliant catch.
However, some lusty hittings by Hussey in the fag end of the innings took the visitors to a decent total.