Getting it right at the ‘death’

Sreesanth dismissing Matthew Hayden proved to be the turning point, as the gutsy Indians sealed the match in the last five overs. Nandita Sridhar reports.

There was something inauspicious about the shambolic Australian fielding in the semifinal against India. Something inexplicable, that said that the Aussies were not going to make it to the final. Or maybe, it was just an extension of the cricketing maxim that catches win matches — and that if you dropped them you could lose.

Going by the form that Yuvraj Singh was in, Australia could not afford to drop him.

The left-hander struck with such force and ease that the touch was almost indiscernible. He timed his shots so perfectly that the ball seemed almost drawn by a force towards the stands.

Indian captain M. S. Dhoni found the time to display his quirks with the bat. Brett Lee bowled a yorker to him and he responded by scooping it out well. Even better were his shots executed to fine-leg.

Robin Uthappa too joined the fireworks with some hefty blows, as India set Australia a good target.

Matthew Hayden would have preferred a massive swipe to the Pacific to wipe out the target, but what he got was a six for despatching the ball outside the ground.

Sreesanth, meanwhile, was into one of his days when the faster he bowled, the quirkier he got. Australia captain Adam Gilchrist fell to his pace, and Brad Hodge was sent back after Yuvraj caught him brilliantly off Irfan Pathan.

Hayden and Andrew Symonds dictated the proceedings thereafter and it looked like the Aussies would make it. That was when Sreesanth released one with great pace that shattered Hayden’s stumps. That was the breakthrough India needed.

Symonds, though, was still attempting to make a match of it, when Irfan Pathan bowled like how one should, in Durban under lights. Symonds couldn’t get it away.

What followed was near-perfect bowling under pressure. Harbhajan bowled Michael Clarke with a beauty, and R. P. Singh followed that up with a searing spell.

Twenty-two runs were needed off the last over. Even for the Aussies, despite having a great finisher in Hussey, it was a little too much.

India had shown guts and sealed the match in the last five overs.

“I felt Sreesanth was the difference in that game. I felt like we were in control, particularly with Matty (Hayden) and Symmo (Andrew Symonds) there, but then that big over. Getting Matty out just turned things their way,” said Adam Gilchrist.

The Aussie captain also had some words of praise for Dhoni. “I thought Dhoni captained beautifully tonight. He just chose the right times to bowl those bowlers in the last three or four overs.”

Dhoni said that Harbhajan had wanted to bowl the crucial 18th over, where he gave away only three runs and took a wicket. “Harbhajan wanted the responsibility. He said ‘give me the ball, I want to bowl’. He had the confidence.

“We needed a guy who had the confidence at the time. He proved it — he got us a wicket and got us into the game.”

The scores

Second semifinal, Australia v India, Durban, September 22, 2007. India won by 15 runs.

India: G. Gambhir c Hodge b Johnson 24; V. Sehwag c Gilchrist b Johnson 9; R. Uthappa (run out) 34; Yuvraj Singh c Hussey b Clarke 70; M. Dhoni (run out) 36; R. Sharma (not out) 8; I. Pathan (not out) 0; Extras (lb-6, w-1) 7. Total (for five wkts., in 20 overs) 188.

Fall of wickets: 1-30, 2-41, 3-125, 4-155, 5-184.

Australia bowling: Lee 4-0-25-0; Bracken 4-0-38-0; Clark 4-0-38-0; Johnson 4-0-31-2; Symonds 3-0-37-0; Clarke 1-0-13-1.

Australia: A. Gilchrist b Sreesanth 22; M. Hayden b Sreesanth 62; B. Hodge c Joginder b Pathan 11; A. Symonds b Pathan 43; M. Hussey c Yuvraj b Joginder 13; M. Clarke b Harbhajan 3; B. Haddin (not out) 5; B. Lee b Joginder 2; M. Johnson (not out) 4; Extras (lb-3, w-3, nb-2) 8. Total (for seven wkts., in 20 overs) 173.

Fall of wickets: 1-36, 2-68, 3-134, 4-156, 5-159, 6-167, 7-169.

India bowling: R. P. Singh 4-0-33-0; Sreesanth 4-1-12-2; Pathan 4-0-44-2; Joginder 3-0-37-2; Harbhajan 4-0-24-1; Sehwag 1-0-20-0.