Vadodara: In a match that had the ability to silence people who question ODI cricket’s existence, Australia beat India by 4 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the 7 match series.
After being reduced to 201 for seven and staring at defeat, it was a brilliant 84-run partnership between Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar that took India to the brink of victory before Harbhajan was bowled by Siddle, leaving India tentalisingly close to the target.
It was a disciplined bowling performance by the Australians that saw India lose wickets at regular intervals before the partnership between Praveen and Harbhajan gave them a real chance. India could eventually manage 288/8 and fell short by 4 runs.
Chasing a target of 293 to win, India lost the wicket of Virender Sehwag early in their innings.
After an initial burst that saw India score 20 runs in just 2 overs, Brett Lee removed the dasher Virender Sehwag. Sehwag was out caught behind the wickets for just 13.
Moments after losing Gambhir, India suffered two more crucial blows as they lost the wickets of Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni. Raina was caught and bowled by Mitchell Johnson off a slower delivery while Dhoni departed soon after off Shane Watson.
Just when it seemed like India were taking the upper hand in the match, they lost the crucial wicket of Gautam Gambhir. Gambhir was out LBW off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson for 68.
Despite losing the crucial wickets of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar early on in the innings, India continued to score at a healthy rate as the duo of Gambhir and Kohli took the attack to the opposition.
Moments after losing the crucial wicket of Virender Sehwag, India suffered another huge jolt as Sachin Tendulkar (14) was sent back to the pavilion by Shane Watson.
Earlier, riding on Michael Hussey’s late assault of 73 runs off just 54 deliveries, Australia posted an impressive 292 for the loss of 8 wickets in their 50 overs.
Electing to bat first after winning the toss, it was skipper Ricky Ponting, who initiated the assault with a quick 74 and capitalised on some listless bowling from the Indians.
After losing a wicket early on in their innings, the Aussies recovered brilliantly thanks to a 97-run stand between Ponting and Tim Paine (50). Another significant contributor for the visitors was Cameron White with 51 runs.
The Indians struck early as Ashish Nehra sent back in-form Shane Watson in just the second over of the innings with the score reading 5/1. Having hit the very first ball of the match for a boundary, Watson was caught plumb in front of the wickets off an incoming delivery that he tried to steer away.
Ponting who came in at the fall of Watson’s wicket got into the act along with Paine, smashing the bowlers to all corners of the park.
The Australian 100 came up in just the 19th over but Paine was dismissed caught behind the wickets off Ishant Sharma, soon after.
Ponting, however, kept his composure to continue smashing the bowlers before his end came in the form of LBW off the bowling of young Ravidra Jadeja.
The respite that the hosts had hoped for after Ponting’s dismissal came only briefly as White and Hussey took charge and added some quick runs to give Australia a chance of eclipsing the 300-run mark.
The total looked achievable till the end of the 49th over with the score reading 291, but Ishant Sharma’s last over where he captured two wickets while giving away just 1 run, which meant India were given a target of 293 to win.
India’s bowlers looked a bit rusty with Ishant capturing three scalps. Nehra bowled some impressive overs but Praveen Kumar was a touch expensive.
The biggest disappointment, however, was ‘the turbunator’ Harbhajan Singh who bowled a wayward line and ended up giving away 57 runs in his 10 overs.
Ravindra Jadeja impressed with his turners and also got the all important breakthrough of Ponting. He finished with figures of 9 overs, 39 runs and 1 wicket.
India suffered a huge blow even before the match started as Yuvraj Singh was ruled out as he is yet to recover fully from his finger injury.
The hosts also left out Munaf Patel, Sudeep Tyagi and Amit Mishra while the Aussies decided to leave out Jon Holland, Shaun marsh, Doug Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus.
MS Dhoni (c/wk), Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag, Ishant Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar.
Ricky Ponting (c), Michael Hussey, Nathan Hauritz, James Hopes, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Tim Paine (wk), Peter Siddle, Adam Voges, Shane Watson, Craig White.