Down in the dumps

Nov. 8: Even the staunchest Australian supporter would not have predicted an unassailable 4-2 lead in favour of Ricky Ponting and his troops, especially when they trailed after the tie at Ferozeshah Kotla in Delhi. But the men from Down Under have done most things right ever since their turnaround in Mohali.

Putting up a clinical performance at the Nehru Stadium here on Sunday, Australia clinched the series with a six-wicket win over a clueless India with eight overs and a ball to spare. Needing 171 to win after India were bowled out in 48 overs, the Aussies eased home in just 41.5 overs, form man Mike Hussey (35 not out) seeing them home after Shane Watson had set up the chase with 49 at the top of the order.It is two years since India under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni have suffered a bilateral series defeat. In 2007 too, it was the Australians who triumphed 4-2 in a seven-match series. However, accepting this defeat will be more painful for the hosts as they lost three matches on the trot against a seemingly under-strength Aussie attack.Chasing a modest target was never a difficult task for the visitors although the pitch offered fair bit of assistance to the spinners in the second innings. Dhoni brought Ravindra Jadeja on as early as in the sixth over and the latter did trouble both Ponting (25) and Watson on occasions. But the target just wasn’t enough to worry the Australians.

Even though Ponting and Watson fell in quick succession to Harbhajan Singh, Hussey and Adam Voges (23 not out) had ample time to guide their team home.Earlier, Virender Sehwag had the stands cheering wildly when he slashed Mitchell Johnson over cover point for six on the second ball of the match. It was a flash in the pan as the Queenslander struck back with vengeance to clean up Sehwag with an in-cutter and followed up with a wonderful delivery that straightened after pitching to send Gautam Gambhir’s off-stump cartwheeling.That over was a blow from which, India never recovered. The man the entire team looks up to during times of crisis — Sachin Tendulkar — began with a superb flick off his pads to make his presence felt.Nevertheless, producing magnificent knocks one after another is not humanly possible even for a genius of his class. Nor are pitches all belters like the one at Hyderabad. Doug Bollinger’s delivery on the good length spot slowed after pitching with Tendulkar already committed to the shot. Result, a soft dismissal.From here on, there was no holding Australia back. Yuvraj Singh departed soon in freak fashion — hitting his own stumps — while Johnson kept Suresh Raina pegged down with a series of short-pitched stuff before the left-hander offered catching practice at mid-on.Dhoni (24) and Jadeja did attempt a resurrection before umpire S.K. Tarapore adjudged the India skipper lbw. The decision may not be the best one as the angle of Bollinger’s delivery suggested that the ball could well have missed off-stump.Returning dream figures of 5-4-6-2, Bollinger bowled Harbhajan out for nought after getting rid of Dhoni to strike twice in three balls at the start of his second spell. Right through, he maintained a superb line in the corridor of uncertainty to keep the Indian batsmen bottled up.However, Jadeja (57) brought up his second ODI half-century and forged a valuable 74-run partnership with Praveen Kumar (unbeaten on 54) that helped India reach at least the 150-mark after tottering at 75/7 in 30 overs.

Sayak BanerjeeGUWAHATI

 

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