A first for the maestro

Pics: AP

Sachin Tendulkar knows much about contributing to the side’s cause. With India chasing a gettable 240, Tendulkar comprehended the value of staying at the wicket. His 42nd ODI hundred was also his first one-day international century in Australia, writes S. Dinakar.

Winning is, often, much about surprising the opposition. The Indians certainly had the Aussies thinking with the composition of the XI at the SCG.

This was a huge game — the first of the finals — at a venue that is steeped in history. And Mahendra Singh Dhoni gambled. All through the series, the Indian captain has revealed ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking. He is guided by his in stinct, is willing to take his chances.

Piyush Chawla had not played a single game for India up to the first final. There were chances that the young leg-spinner would be rusty and lacking in match practice. These factors were hardly in the skipper’s mind when he opted for Chawla to combine with Harbhajan Singh.

The leg-spinners have been known to be successful at the SCG, a huge arena, in the past. The surface here had always offered a measure of assistance to the spinners.

In the event, Chawla did not pick a wicket, but his 10 overs in the middle of the innings meant that the fifth bowler in the XI was able to sustain the intensity with Harbhajan. It made a big difference.

Harbhajan struck, removing Andrew Symonds and a well-set Matthew Hayden just when the Aussies were threatening to run away with the game. Both batsmen were dismissed attempting big strokes and the match changed course.

“These were very important wickets and Harbhajan gave us the breakthroughs,” said Man of the Match Sachin Tendulkar. The off-spinner was heckled by a section of the crowd, and possibly, reacted with some anger. But he also put his hand up for the side again.

Tendulkar knows much about contributing to the side’s cause. With India chasing a gettable 240, Tendulkar comprehended the value of staying at the wicket. His 42nd ODI hundred was also his first one-day international century in Australia.

During the innings, Tendulkar batted like a fox. He defended the good deliveries and ruthlessly put away deliveries lacking even slightly in length and direction.

Harbhajan Singh is congratulated by skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni after the fall of Matthew Hayden. The ace spinner also accounted for allrounder Andrew Symonds.-

Harbhajan Singh

The large Indian contingent in the stands celebrated every stroke from the maestro. The fierce cut off Nathan Bracken, the perfect square-drive off James Hopes, the scintillating cover-drive off Brad Hogg, the trade-mark whip down the on-side off an off-colour Mitchell Johnson... they were all applauded.

Tendulkar played much of his innings in pain. He was bothered by a groin strain but did not opt for a runner. He built the innings, brick by brick, was at the crease when the side crossed the finish line.

“It is a great feeling to contribute to an Indian win in the finals at the SCG against Australia,” he said. India had won its first ODI match against the Aussies at the SCG.

Tendulkar’s 123-run partnership with Rohit Sharma virtually settled the match in India’s favour. Rohit was calm, composed and full of strokes. He disrupted the rhythm of the Aussie attack. The bowlers were hardly allowed to settle down.

At the other end, Tendulkar was completely focussed. There were a couple of instances early in his innings when the maestro was beaten by the extra bounce and movement from Lee and Bracken. A professional that he is, Tendulkar did not allow these blemishes to distract him. He was, indeed, on the ball. When Lee hit him close to his shoulder with a beamer, Tendulkar smiled and shared a joke with the Aussie. “I know Brett well. It was not intentional,” he said.

Earlier, the Indian bowlers had performed a fine job after Dhoni lost the toss. There was early life in the pitch due to the morning rain and the sweating under the covers and the pacemen exploited the conditions well. Praveen Kumar used his wrist and shoulder well to achieve some extra zip off the surface. He can hit the bat quicker than the batsmen expect. Praveen removed Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting on the pull shot. Ishant Sharma bowled zestfully again. He also won a contentious caught behind decision against Michael Clarke; replays showed the ball clipped the batsman’s pads.

Hayden crossed 6000 runs in ODIs and looked good for more when he fell to Harbhajan in a moment of indiscretion. Australia rallied through Michael Hussey but the total was not going to be enough.

“The pitch played better than I expected. It held firm, did not break as the match progressed,” said Ponting.

India too was hard to break in the first final.

THE SCORES

CB Series, 1st final, Australia v India, Sydney, March 2. India won by six wickets.

Australia: A. Gilchrist c Yuvraj b Kumar 7; M. Hayden c Chawla b Harbhajan 82; R. Ponting b Kumar 1; M. Clarke c Dhoni b I. Sharma 4; A. Symonds c Kumar b Harbhajan 31; M. Hussey (run out) 45; J. Hopes c Dhoni b Yuvraj 15; B. Hogg (not out) 23; B. Lee c R. Sharma b Pathan 17; M. Johnson (not out) 6; Extras (b-1, w-7) 8. Total (for eight wkts., in 50 overs) 239.

Fall of wickets: 1-16, 2-19, 3-24, 4-124, 5-135, 6-173, 7-212, 8-231.

India bowling: Kumar 10-1-49-2; I. Sharma 8-0-32-1; Pathan 7-0-63-1; Harbhajan 10-0-38-2; Chawla 10-0-33-0; Yuvraj 4-0-18-1; R. Sharma 1-0-5-0.

India: R. Uthappa c Hussey b Hopes 17; S. Tendulkar (not out) 117; G. Gambhir (run out) 3; Yuvraj b Hogg 10; R. Sharma b Hopes 66; M. Dhoni (not out) 15; Extras (b-4, lb-2, w-6, nb-2) 14; Total (for four wkts., in 45.5 overs) 242.

Fall of wickets: 1-50, 2-56, 3-87, 4-210.

Australia bowling: Lee 9-0-33-0; Bracken 8-0-42-0; Johnson 10-0-70-0; Hopes 8.5-0-42-2; Hogg 7-0-38-1; Clarke 3-0-11-0.