Guwahati: Mike Hussey and Adam Voges saw Australia through to a six-wicket victory over India in the sixth one-dayer of the Hero Honda Cup here on Sunday. With their third win on the trot, Australia also sealed the series by taking an unassailable 4-2 lead in the 7-match series to render the final ODI in Mumbai inconsequential.
Chasing a modest 171 runs for victory, the Australians overhauled the target in just 41.5 overs as the hosts were left ruing their batting collapse in morning, from which they failed to recover.
Hussey, series’ second highest run getter so far, remained unbeaten on 35 runs, and along with Voges (23 not out) ensured that the Australians would romp home with aplomb.
Earlier, twin strikes from Harbhajan Singh that of Shane Watson and Ricky Ponting, briefly brought India back in the reckoning and it seemed that India might just manage to produce one of the great escapes.
Watson, who was Bhajji’s first victim, missed out on a well-deserved half-century by a solitary run as Harbhajan induced a top-edge from him straight to Virender Sehwag at first slip.
Watson’s failed attempt at a sweep shot curtailed his run–a-ball 49 run knock that contained 10 fours.
In his next over, he snared Australian captain, courtesy a faint edge to Suresh Raina at leg-slip as the capacity crowd roared with approval.
Ponting made 25 runs off 57 balls (3 fours).
However, the duo by then had already ensured that no early in-roads were provided to India after Munaf Patel had provided India the first breakthrough by trapping previous match’s centurion Shaun Marsh for 6 runs.
Cameron White too contributed a useful 25 runs to offset any chances of a collapse.
Harbhajan rediscovered his bowling form with 2/23 off 10 over but unfortunately for India, it was a case of too little to late.
India make 170
India were bowled for 170 runs in the sixth ODI at Guwahati on Sunday morning, failing to survive their full quota of 50 overs.
Even for this moderate total, India had Ravindra Jadeja and Praveen Kumar to thank, who displayed great gusto to ensure that hosts retained a fighting chance of winning this crucial match and leveling the series.
20 year old Jadeja, who faced immense criticism for his reckless run-outs in the previous two games, showed the way to his illustrious seniors with a gritty 57 run-knock, his second ever half-century.
Coming into bat with the scoreboard reading 27/5 and India facing an inglorious prospect of being bundled out for a 2-digit score, forget lasting 50 overs, initially along with Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Jadeja provided some much needed stability to the Indian ship.
But after Dhoni’s dismissal, Jadeja broke through the shackles and along with Praveen Kumar pushed India’s score past 150, in the process ensuring that the bowlers have a decent chance of saving the day for the hosts.
Jadeja and Kumar added 74 runs off 82 balls, exploiting the batting power play to the hilt, scoring 34 runs from it.
Jadeja eventually fell to Doug Bollinger when he failed to get the timing to pull right. Jadeja’s fighback lasted 103 balls and was sprinkled with 6 hits to the fence.
Praveen Kumar, undeterred, continued his impressive performances with the bat and slammed his maiden half-century as well. His batting prowess have been the find of the series for India in this series and gave yet another display of his immense untapped potential. He blasted 54 runs from just 51 balls and looked good to add a few more before Shane Watson’s double strike in the 48th over engulfed Ashish Nehra and Munaf Patel to draw curtains on the Indian innings.
Earlier, the rebuilding process for the hosts had started with Dhoni and Jadeja putting their heads down when they joined forces at 27/5.
With runs coming at a snails pace, the duo ditched all forms of aggression as they attempted to offer a semblance of respectability to the Indian total.
However, it seemed to be back to square one when Bollinger, re-introduced into the attack for a second spell, trapped Dhoni leg before wicket. Dhoni, who became Bollinger’s third victim, contributed a painstakingly slow 24 runs off 77 balls to India’s cause.
In the same over Harbhajan Singh managed his second consecutive second ball duck as Australians seemed to have tightened the noose on the hosts, before heroics from Kumar and Jadeja gave India some breathing space.
In the morning, a disastrous start with the bat by India helped Australia wrest early advantage.
After Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat in this do-or-die match, India made the worst possible start as the opener Virender Sehwag and one-drop batsman Gautam Gambhir fell cheaply. Soon after, master blaster Sachin Tendulkar too made a beeline for the pavilion as Indian innings plunged deeper into crisis.
Having got off the mark with a six off the second very delivery of the match, Sehwag perished two balls later when he was beaten by late in-swing off a Mitchell Johnson delivery to see his stumps uprooted.
Johnson cleaned up the stumps of Gambhir too in the same over to reduce India to 7/2 after an action packed first over.
The biggest blow of the day however was struck by Doug Bollinger, who showcased his excellent reflexes to take a sharp return catch offered by Tendulkar to send the packed Jawaharlal Nehru stadium into shocked silence.
Tendulkar fell for 10 runs (17 balls, 2 fours) to leave India reeling at 23/3 after the sixth over.
Next up, Yuvraj Singh was clean bowled by Bollinger quite bizarrely as the ball hit the stumps due to a faint nudge from the back of his bat. Yuvraj himself was left bemused by the manner of his dismissal as he trudged out of the pitch sporting a wry smile.
Suresh Raina too failed to make a mark falling for a duck, his half-hearted swipe off Johnson latched onto by Nathan Hauritz.
Just 10 overs into the match, India was 27/5 leaving Dhoni and Jadeja with a mountain to climb even if India just aspire to make a match out of the contest now.
For Australia, Bollinger (5/35) and Johnson (3/39) dealt crucial blows to India while Shane Watson cleaned up the tail to finish with 2/27. Hauritz bowled a tidy 9 over spell conceding just 19 runs.
Meanwhile, India retained the same side that lost the Hyderabad ODI by mere 3 runs.
Australians however made one change to their playing eleven, bringing in Mitchell Johnson in place of Ben Hilfenhaus.
Australia: Ricky Ponting (C), Michael Hussey (VC), Doug Bollinger, Nathan Hauritz, Jon Holland, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh, Adam Voges, Shane Watson, Cameron White and Clint McKay.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja.