India halts Australia’s winning streak

During his knock of 79 at Chandigarh, Sachin Tendulkar passed a few records.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Australia’s 14-match unbeaten streak in the ODIs was halted. This was also India’s first win over the Aussies in 11 games. India had last defeated Australia in the triangular ODI series down under in 2004. S. Dinakar reports.

India made all the right moves at Chandigarh’s Sector-16 Stadium. The experienced opening pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly laid the foundation. Skipper M.S. Dhoni and Robin Uthappa powered the side in the end overs.

The opening partnership fetched India 91 runs. Crucially, the first hour of a day game was seen through without damage. In the earlier matches, the Aussie pacemen had made major inroads early on.

The first-wicket stand also meant India had wickets in hand for a surge in the last phase of the innings. With Dhoni and Uthappa dazzling, the last five overs fetched India a match-winning 56 runs. It was a well-orchestrated batting effort.

The team picked five specialist bowlers and an extra spinner in left-armer Murali Kartik. The zestful Rudra Pratap Singh was back in the side and was handed the new ball. The attack had a better look about it. In the event, the two bowlers delivered significant 47th and 48th overs.

Irrespective of how the series develops from this point, it was a significant victory for the Indians. Australia’s 14-match unbeaten streak in the ODIs had been halted. This was also India’s first win over the Aussies in 11 games. India had last defeated Australia in the triangular ODI series down under in 2004.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision to bat was driven by two factors — the need to avoid the pressures of the chase and the presence of two spinners in the attack. This was a gamble since there could be considerable assistance to the pacemen in the early phase of the day games in the northern parts of the country. Dhoni’s ploy worked.

The difference in the end was just eight runs, but the Aussies blundered in critical junctures of the fourth Future Cup ODI at a pleasing venue. The speedy and experienced Brett Lee was not given his full quota of overs. Nathan Bracken, searching for rhythm, was taken for 20 runs in the 50th over. Lee, someone with speed and reverse swing, still had three overs remaining.

Australia suffered by persisting with the out-of-from Brad Hodge ahead of the fluent and innovative Brad Haddin. Breaking up the Lee-Johnson new-ball pairing also hurt the visitors.

Needing 292 for a victory, Australia required 16 runs off the last six balls with three wickets left. James Hopes hammered a straight boundary off the first ball, but bowler Zaheer Khan and the fielders held their nerve, closed out the boundary hitting options.

Twenty four runs off the last three overs with three wickets in hand was the equation when Kartik bowled a splendid over, varying his trajectory and pace; he gave away just two runs.

An over earlier, R. P. Singh, bringing the ball into the right-hander, disturbed the woodwork as Andrew Symonds missed a chop shot. In an otherwise mature and confident innings, Symonds (75, 84b, 3x4, 1x6) was leading the pursuit with aplomb.

Australia was 268 for six at this stage — in 46.5 overs — and lost a wicket off the next ball when Brad Hogg was run-out. The Indians then closed in for the kill.

Both R. P. Singh and Zaheer employed a fuller length most consistently in the end overs; another positive for India. Harbhajan and Kartik ensured that the Aussies did not get away in the middle overs.

Kartik’s change of pace resulted in the imposing Matthew Hayden being caught in the outfield when just eight short of a deserving hundred. Hayden brought up his 1500th ODI run for the year during the effort.

In the Indian innings Tendulkar (79 off 119 balls) was troubled initially by Lee in the corridor, but survived to play strokes, both delicate and powerful. During the innings, he scored his 84th ODI fifty, therby surpassing Inzamam-ul-Haq’s 83 for the most number of ODI half-centuries. He also left behind Desmond Haynes’ mark for most runs (2262) against the Aussies in ODIs and crossed 1000 ODI runs in a calendar year for a record seventh time.

For the Aussies, medium pacer Hopes, taking the pace off the ball and in control of his length and direction, bowled splendidly. This was a day when the two left-armers, Bracken and Mitchell Johnson, went for runs. Australia conceded 31 extras.

The Indians cashed in on the Aussie mistakes. They also played positive cricket.