India hold their nerve to beat Australia
India held their nerve in the final moments to snatch a dramatic eight-run victory over Australia in the fourth One-Day International in Chandighar on Monday.
The victory cut Australia’s lead to 2-1 and kept the Indians afloat in the seven-match series.
India’s batsmen came good, after Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat, and rattled up 291 for four. Their bowlers then did a superb job by restricting the mighty Australians to 283 for seven.
The Australians were cruising comfortably at 268 for 5 till the 46th over when two wickets in the span of two balls completely changed the complexion of the match much to the delight of a vociferous home crowd.
Needing 22 runs from the last two overs, with three wickets in hand, Australia could just manage six run from R P Singh’s over after comeback man Murali Kartik compounded problems for the visitors by giving away just two runs in the previous over.
In the final over with the Australians requiring 16 runs, Zaheer conceded a four off the first ball and gave four more runs off the remaining five balls, sending capacity crowd into a frenzy at the Sector 16 stadium which was hosting an international match after a gap of 14 years.
India owed their total to some lusty hitting by Robin Uthappa (30 runs off 18 balls) and captain Dhoni, who slammed 50 off just 35 balls, after Sachin Tendulkar (79) and Sourav Ganguly (41) provided a solid start.
For the visitors, the in-form Matthew Hayden hit a 92-ball 92 and Andrew Symonds scored 75 but the late order batsmen succumbed to the pressure to give the home team a sensational victory, their first over the Australians since January 2004.
The teams now travel to Vadodara for the fifth game, to be played on Thursday.
Having made mess of their chases in the series so far, Dhoni did not think twice before opting to bat after winning the toss. Though the early morning dew lifted the spirit of the Australian pacers, India, to their credit, got off to a sedate start as Ganguly hit the straps even though Tendulkar looked at sea, especially against Brett Lee.
Ganguly got off with a third ball glance off Lee that raced to the boundary and then creamed Nathan Bracken for two fours in the sixth over to show why he is considered such a good player on the off-side.
He later stepped out to hit the pacer over mid-wicket for a boundary.
While Ganguly looked fluent, Tendulkar was fumbling. The right-hander in fact had a traumatic start to his knock and was clearly uncomfortable against Lee.
Going by the snickometer, the Mumbaikar was actually out caught behind for a duck off Lee. Tendulkar survived two leg before appeals, including in the first ball he faced from comeback man Nathan Bracken, twice changed his bat, but things remained same.
Lee almost caught him off his own bowling when Tendulkar’s ugly fending looped up only to land in no-man’s land.
Ganguly, who looked in silken touch, often came down for those mid-pitch conversations but there was no end to Tendulkar’s miseries and it took him 42 balls before he could hit his first boundary off James Hopes.
Despite Tendulkar’s struggle, India crawled to 50 in 12.2 overs without any setback, thanks to the largess of a surprisingly generous Australian attack which bled 14 extras at that stage.
And they had forged the best opening stand for India in the series by then, while Tendulkar overtook Desmond Haynes to become the highest scorer in ODIs against Australia. The run rate was not sky-rocketing, but the opener at least ensured that India did not lose early wickets.
The half-century was up for grabbing when Ganguly’s stay was cut short in the 20th over. The left-hander went for a wild pull and managed a nick off James Hopes to perish caught behind. The former captain took 59 balls for his 41 that included six delectable hits to the fence.
The opening stand featuring two of the most prolific scorers in one day crickets thus fell nine runs shy of yet another century partnership.
Son of the soil Yuvraj (39) walked in amid roar across the Sector 16 stadium and cut Brad Hogg for a four to get going.
In the spinner’s next over, the left-hander slog swept and cut the bowler for two more fours.
Tendulkar battled to a 91-ball 50 to clock up his 84th half century, again a personal milestone eclipsing Inzamam-ul Haq’s record of 83. Tendulkar also scored his 1000 run in the calendar year.
Yuvraj was just opening up when Hopes struck again when the left-hander went for a drive on the up only to offer a tame catch to Ponting at extra cover. Yuvraj dominated his 83-run stand with Tendulkar before falling for 39 that came off 55 balls and had five fours in it.
Dhoni joined Tendulkar but found boundaries were not easy to come by and hence ran hard to convert the ones into twos.
Tendulkar used improvisation to good effect and the duo hit Hopes for three boundaries in that productive 40th overs that yielded 15 runs and saw India reach the 200-mark, which was a perfect foundation for a late charge.
Johnson too was hit for three boundaries in the next over but India soon were greeted with a setback when Tendulkar was run out.
Tendulkar was run out by a direct hit from Lee at short fine leg after he was sent back by Dhoni.
Rahul Dravid (13) walked in and hit back-to-back boundaries off Bracken before losing his stumps in the same over.
Next man in Uthappa announced his arrival with a chip off Hogg for his first boundary and then hit Bracken over his head for the same effect. He did a repeat show with Lee in the penultimate over and both he and Dhoni went berserk in the 50th over.
The final over by Bracken went for 20 runs (1,4,4,1,4,6) and Dhoni completed his unbeaten belligerent 50 with a soaring six off the final delivery of the innings.
Australia got off to a rollicking start and looked in a hurry as they raced to 37 in five overs.
India did manage to silence Adam Gilchrist (18) early — he holed out to Zaheer Khan off R P Singh — but his exit had no slowing down effect on Hayden, who treated Zaheer with contempt while his captain Ricky Ponting hit R P Singh for three boundaries in the 10th over.
With scores of 34, 75 and 60, Hayden has been a thorn in the flesh of the Indians and he kept tormenting them even after Ponting fell to Pathan, stumped by Dhoni in the 19th over.
Ten runs later, Michael Clarke (6) gave a return catch to Harbhajan Singh.
Symonds and Hayden were content with the occasional boundaries and had added 58 runs when Hayden perished at mid-wicket off Murali Kartik. His dismissal injected some life in the match.
After a lull, Harbhajan claimed his second victim in Brad Hodge (17), with Dhoni doing a brilliant job behind the stumps, in the 44th over. Australia could have been in further trouble had R P Singh been able to hold on to James Hopes’s drive.
The left-arm seamer made amends in his next over.
Symonds wanted to play a feisty cut but missed the line and had his stumps disturbed. In the next ball, the pacer again broke the stumps, this time, however, with a throw that returned Brad Hogg run out for a duck.