India’s bowlers keep series alive


sachinIndia’s bowlers fought back from a blistering opening by Matthew Hayden to snatch an eight-run victory and keep the seven-match series alive. Two of India’s additions at Chandigarh, RP Singh and Murali Kartik, bowled superbly in the dying stages and Zaheer Khan held his nerve with a composed last over to secure the win.

Too much was left for James Hopes and Brett Lee, who had to find 22 runs from the last two overs and then 17 from Zaheer’s final six balls. The 31 wides Australia conceded as India reached 291 were costly, but the real turning point was when RP Singh bowled Andrew Symonds for 75 in the 47th over of the chase. Singh followed up the very next ball by throwing down the stumps at the striker’s end to run out Brad Hogg and the pressure was squarely on the visitors.

Zaheer had only to avoid a final-over blowout and despite an early scare when Hopes drove the first ball for four, he fired in a succession of yorkers that gave the Australians little chance.

Australia appeared to be cruising with ten overs remaining. The asking-rate was seven; they had six wickets in hand and a calm Symonds at the crease, but the out-of-form Brad Hodge struggled to rotate the strike and the required run-rate gradually expanded.

India were kept in the game largely by their spinners, Kartik and Harbhajan Singh, who built the pressure on Hodge by denying him singles which kept Symonds away from the strike. Irfan Pathan was also difficult to get away and RP Singh’s return after a miserable start was superb.

Harbhajan removed Hodge when Mahendra Singh Dhoni stumped him off a wide for 17 from 29 balls but the wicket of Symonds was the killer blow. He looked to have paced his innings to perfection, pushing singles and twos and finding the occasional boundary and setting himself for a late assault. However, he backed away trying to hit RP Singh through the off side when boundaries were needed and was bowled.

Hayden had built a solid base with 92 at a run a ball but the pressure began to mount when he departed. Like Symonds, Hayden scored his third consecutive half-century and gave Australia a terrific start as they raced to 106 for 1 from 15 overs. RP Singh was wayward and Zaheer costly as Hayden continued his remarkable run in 2007, falling just short of his sixth century since January 1.

He muscled boundaries all around the ground in his usual manner, walking at the bowlers and hoisting several balls over the infield. The new-ball bowlers gave him too much width and his best shots included a flick off his pads for four off Singh - it went along the ground all the way - and a trademark clip over midwicket for six off Zaheer.

But Hayden appeared to tire as the day wore on and he fell to an intelligent piece of bowling from Kartik, who was terrific in his first ODI in 18 months. Hayden advanced to Kartik and, despite not getting to the pitch of the ball, lofted a four over midwicket, but when he tried the same thing two deliveries later Kartik pulled his length back even further. Hayden’s legs were not as limber as early in the innings and he ended up reaching for the ball, striking it one-handed and finding Zaheer on the midwicket boundary.

In contrast Australia’s spinners, Hogg and Symonds, were far less effective through the middle overs as India built a platform for a late blitz. Dhoni and Robin Uthappa’s final attack carried them to 291 for 4 as India scored 89 in the final ten overs, including 20 from the last six balls off Nathan Bracken.

It was an awesome turnaround after one of India’s more embarrassing starts, with Tendulkar initially looking out of place as the fast men swung the ball at will. He just could not lay bat on ball - Lee was especially threatening - but despite two close lbw shouts and a possible inside edge that was turned down by the umpire, Tendulkar did not give up.

Early in his innings he faced 17 consecutive dot balls but once the ball stopped swinging, he worked his way back into form with a few glimpses of his brilliance. His 79 anchored the innings and he had good support from Sourav Ganguly, who who returned to the side after missing two matches.

Like Tendulkar, Ganguly struggled early but his determination not to let the bowlers dictate terms was important in India’s turnaround. Ganguly finished with 41 before Dhoni and Robin Uthappa came home with a bang.

Dhoni scored 50 from 35 and Uthappa made 30 from 18 as India continued the high-scoring trend for teams batting first in this series. India’s victory means Australia lead the seven-match series 2-1, ahead of the fifth game at Vadodara on Thursday.

Source:Cricket News

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