S. Dinakar

India survives a few hiccups to score a five-wicket win; Tendulkar is top scorer with 44

Melbourne: Sea gulls swooped into the arena for an afternoon feast. Ishant Sharma swooped in on the batsmen with the same intent. And he feasted.

Pace was ace as India scored its first ODI win over Australia at the MCG in 22 years. Ishant hurt the host with his speed, cut and bounce. He was the ace in the pace pack with four for 38.

Against Ishant’s two-way movement, S. Sreesanth’s pace and swing and Irfan Pathan’s left-arm deviation, the Australian batting was shown to be vulnerable.

On what former Aussie paceman Damien Fleming described as the quickest pitch for international cricket this summer down under, Australia was beaten. Rather, India won.

India’s seemingly easy run-chase of 160 ran into a road-block against a buzzing bunch of Aussie pacemen. India lost five wickets and then Rohit Sharma and Mahendra Singh Dhoni ensured there would be no comebacks for Australia. Sachin Tendulkar made a crucial 44.

India leads the CB tri-series points tally with eight from three games. Australia has seven from an equal number of games and Sri Lanka two from two.

High on octane

Man of the Match Ishant was high on octane and low on sympathy for the batsmen. The lanky paceman’s off-stump line from a high-arm action was impeccable. The ploy to give him the new ball worked, while Australia’s tactic to bat first did not.

The new ball combination of Ishant and S. Sreesanth worked up speeds that compelled attention. Ishant almost touched 150kmph, while Sreesanth bowled in the early 140’s.

Then, Pathan swung them at a brisk pace.

Australia was unlucky at the start though when Adam Gilchrist was adjudged leg-before to a swinging full-length delivery from Sreesanth by umpire Rudi Koerzten. Replays showed the batsman had edged the ball.

Ishant was expensive in the beginning, possibly he was trying too hard but settled down to bowl impressively. His mind and body were in harmony as he ran in to bowl.

Crucial blows

He used his wrist effectively to swing the ball in the air and seam it off the pitch, much like Pakistan’s Mohammad Asif. Ishant struck crucial blows.

Matthew Hayden was getting into his stride when Ishant removed him with a delivery that left the left-hander. The paceman then switched his line. Ricky Ponting was sorted out by Ishant with a ball that bounced and deviated a shade.

The Aussie captain’s problems against Ishant continues. The Indian paceman’s off-stump line and two-way movement have put the seeds of doubts in Ponting’s mind. Consequently, his footwork has turned tentative.

The Indian celebrations continued. Michael Clarke flicked Pathan into mid-wicket’s hands. The in-form Andrew Symonds succumbed to an Ishant delivery just outside the off-stump that bounced and held its line. Dhoni took a smart catch, diving to his right.

Dhoni was on the ball again when Harbhajan Singh drifted one — he was helped by a crosswind — down the leg-side and Brad Haddin missed a pull-sweep. The bails were off in a flash.

Michael Hussey (65 not out, 88b, 4x4) showed character, working the ball into the gaps and running hard. The left-hander was involved in a mini recovery with Brett Lee before the Indian pacemen swept away the tail.

Ponting did all he could to defend an inadequate total. He held back the last power play till the very end, kept his pacemen on for most part, attempted to deny the Indians singles and force them to hit over the top.

Nathan Bracken won a debatable leg-before shout against Virender Sehwag.

The promoted Irfan Pathan at No 3 was prised out by an incoming delivery from Mitchell Johnson and Gautam Gambhir was done in by a short-pitched lifter from Lee.

Absorbing duel

Lee consistently clocked above 150kmph and was involved in an absorbing duel with Tendulkar (44, 54b, 3x4). The maestro struck Lee for successive straight drives past the ropes.

Eventually, he was brilliantly held by a leaping Lee at mid-off off Johnson. Tendulkar would have been dismissed earlier had umpire Koerzten upheld a legitimate shout for a caught behind decision off Stuart Clark.

Yuvraj Singh, low on runs and confidence, was deceived by a slower delivery from Clark.

Once again Dhoni held firm and Sharma grew in confidence after an uneasy start. The duo was patient and gradually the pressure eased.

Ponting was forced to bring his spinners on and it was game India.

SCOREBOARD

Australia: A. Gilchrist lbw b Sreesanth 0, M. Hayden c Dhoni b Ishant 25, R. Ponting c Tendulkar b Ishant 9, M. Clarke c Rohit Sharma b Pathan 11, A. Symonds c Dhoni b Ishant 14, M. Hussey (not out) 65, B. Haddin st. Dhoni b Harbhajan 5, B. Lee c Dhoni b Pathan 10, M. Johnson c Uthappa b Sreesanth 3, N. Bracken c Tendulkar b Sreesanth 1, S. Clark c Dhoni b Ishant 0; Extras (b-1, lb-3, w-9, nb-3): 16; Total (in 43.1 overs): 159.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-37, 3-47, 4-64, 5-75, 6-92, 7-145, 8-151, 9-155.

India bowling: Sreesanth 9-0-31-3, Ishant 9.1-1-38-4, Pathan 8-0-26-2, Harbhajan 8-2-19-1, Sehwag 5-0-24-0, Yuvraj 2-0-11-0, Tendulkar 2-0-6-0.

India: V. Sehwag lbw b Bracken 11, S. Tendulkar c Lee b Johnson 44, I. Pathan lbw b Johnson 18, G. Gambhir c Clarke b Lee 21, Yuvraj c Hussey b Clark 3, Rohit Sharma (not out) 39, M.S. Dhoni (not out) 17; Extras (lb-2,w-5): 7; Total (for five wkts., in 45.5 overs): 160

Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-54, 3-89, 4-96, 5-102.

Australia bowling: Lee 9-0-42-1, Bracken 10-0-35-1, Clark 10-1-26-1, Johnson 10-1-24-2, Clarke 4-0-12-0, Symonds 2.5-0-19-0.

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