Chayan Rastogi/Zeecric Bureau
Bangalore: India thrashed Ricky Ponting’s dream of winning his maiden Test match as captain on Indian soil as a solid fifty by debutant Cheteshwar Pujara and an attacking half century by ace batsman Sachin Tendulkar guided India to a seven-wicket win and thus register their first ever clean sweep over Australia in a Test series.
With this 2-0 win over Australia, India not only re-strengthened their Numero Uno status in the ICC Test rankings but also retained the coveted Border-Gavaskar trophy.
Sachin Tendulkar (53) and Rahul Dravid (21) shared an unbeaten partnership of 61 runs for the fourth wicket and took India home as Tendulkar paddle swept Hauritz towards fine leg for two runs.
Tendulkar, who made a double century and completed 14,000 runs during his first innings, looked in supreme touch in this innings too as he guided India to victory with mesmerizing display of strokes. Tendulkar was particularly harsh on spinner Hauritz, as he stroked two consecutive lusty blows over long on for six, just before the tea interval.
With 403 runs under his belt in two-match series, Tendulkar was fittingly rewarded as the ‘Player of the match’ and ‘Player of the series’ award.
Chasing a target of 207 runs on a weary fifth day pitch without the experience of fourth innings specialist VVS Laxman, India were off to a disastrous start as opener Virender Sehwag fell cheaply for just seven runs. Sehwag, who was dropped an over earlier by Mike Hussey, was living dangerously during his short stay at the crease and was ultimately caught by wicket-keeper Tim Paine off Ben Hilfenhaus when he tried to guide a rising delivery towards gully.
Cheteshwar Pujara, the much talked about run-machine in the domestic circuit, was sent in to bat at number three in place of Rahul Dravid and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands scoring a classic half-century.
Before getting dismissed by a spinning delivery from Nathan Hauritz on 72, Pujara weaved significant partnerships with, first, Murali Vijay (72) and then Sachin Tendulkar (57) to keep the Indian chase on track.
Pujara and Vijay showed immense character in their vital partnership and looked solid on an uneasy track which was turning sharply and had unpredictable bounce. Both batsmen were pretty harsh on spinner Nathan Hauritz, looting 22 runs in his two overs before lunch.
Pujara displayed a superb show of attacking cricket, coming down the track to spinners, and caressing seven lovely boundaries in his knock.
Just when it looked that the second wicket partnership between Murali Vijay (37) and Cheteshwar Pujara would take India out of danger and close to victory, Shane Watson trapped Vijay plumb in front of the wickets to give India a crucial blow.
Earlier in the morning, Indian pace battery made early work of Australian tail-enders, claiming the last three wickets for 21 runs and restricting Australia’s lead to 206 runs.
Australia started the proceedings on fifth day cautiously with Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Hauritz picking up singles against fiery pace of Sreesanth and Zaheer.
Just when Australian batting pair looked intimidating to take lead past Indian reach, Zaheer Khan cleaned up Johnson’s off stump with an inswinger to start mini collapse.
An over later, Sreesanth clean bowled Ben Hilfenhaus with a reverse swinging delivery and welcomed last man Peter George with short-pitch deliveries.
Zaheer Khan then dismissed Peter George to finish Australia’s resistance on a crumpling fifth day pitch to set up an exciting chase of 207 runs for India.