Sunday 10 February 2008 

India Stun Australia With Five-Wicket Win In Melbourne

Australia 159 (Hussey 65no, I Sharma 4-38, Sreesanth 3-31) v
India 160-5 (Tendulkar 44, R Sharma 39no, Johnson 2-24)

India won by five wickets

Report by Aaron Kumar

India stunned Australia by recording a five-wicket victory in game four of the Commonwealth Bank series, Sachin Tendulkar top scoring with 44 in what was a dramatic contest.

Australia won the toss and it was no surprise that the home side elected to bat first on what appeared to be a very good wicket for batting. Sreesanth removed the soon to be retired Adam Gilchrist for a duck in controversial fashion in the first over of the match. Replays show that the dynamic wicketkeeper batsman got a thick inside edge onto his pads.

Matthew Hayden very nearly followed his opening partner back to the pavilion in the very next over, when he slashed at a wide ball off the bowling of Ishant Sharma. Robin Uthappa at slip was able to get a hand on it but was not able to complete what was realistically only a half chance.

Hayden has been in very good form, in both forms of the game and this was evident once again here early on in the innings as he found the middle of the bat with great regulatory and hit some glorious boundaries, to add to a couple of streaky ones. While skipper Ricky Ponting got himself going by working around the ball and taking some very well judged singles.

The pair seemed set to take the game away from India as they put on 36 in just five overs before Hayden, perhaps a touch over confident slashed at a ball outside off stump which was caught by captain MS Dhoni, to leave the home side struggling with the score 37-2.

Things got even better for the tourists in Sharma�s next over, when he bowled a beauty of a delivery to Ponting, which had pace and bounce and the Australian captain only succeeded in edging to Sachin Tendulkar to leave the Australians struggling at 47-3.

Sharma, who represented India in the last U19 World Cup proved to be a great find in the Test series, and once more early on in this game he proved to be the pick of the Indian bowlers and posed a sizeable threat to all of Australia�s top order batsmen.

The consistent areas in which both Sreesanth and Sharma were bowling kept Ponting's men under pressure although the run rate was still healthy. In Andrew Symonds Australia have the ideal batsman for the slightly precarious situation they found themselves in. Symonds has a reputation of thriving while his team are under severe pressure, most notably at the World Cup in 2003 when he smashed a huge hundred against Pakistan, when his side had been five down without having 100 on the board.

It was very hard going for the duo early on but little by little, they attempted to rebuild the innings. These plans were scuppered however, when Michael Clarke was caught for 11 by Rohit Sharma, attempting to work all-rounder Irfan Pathan through midwicket. Clarke�s downfall left the Australians reeling with the score 64-4.

It was clear that despite only having three pacer bowlers in their line up, India were keen to keep utilising the faster men is pursuit of a fifth wicket which would put the Australians firmly on the back foot. The plan paid off as Sharma found the outside edge of Symonds and Dhoni completed a great catch. Sharma�s third wicket left Australia 75-5.

In losing half their side for so few runs the Australians run rate really did slow down to a point where the Indians felt they had firm control of the game. However at the toss Ricky Ponting had said that Gilchrist�s heir apparent Bradd Haddin as wicket keeper batsman would be playing as a specialist batsman at number seven at the expense of Brad Hogg in a bid to bolster the Australian batting.

Haddin and the experienced Michael Hussey were both trying to soak up the pressure, preserve their wickets and attempt to turn the match around.

Haddin never seemed comfortable at the wicket especially against the spinners and indeed he completely missed a ball fired down the leg side by Harbhajan Singh and was stumped by MS Dhoni to leave Australia 91-6 and in real danger of being bowled out well before the allotted 50 overs were completed.

Brett Lee has scored some valuable lower order runs in Test Cricket in recent time and he provided good support in the lower order for Hussey as Australia tried to post a total over 200 which would have given their formidable pace attack led by Lee something to work with.

Hussey started slowly but then raised his temp and reached his half century at a decent pace as his partnership with Lee continued to grow in stature. Hussey�s knock was a combination or good running between the wickets and some elegantly struck boundaries.

The Lee-Hussey Partnership had given Australia some kind of momentum but just when it was starting to look a bit ominous for India Brett Lee was caught behind By Dhoni off of Pathan's bowling, Dhoni�s third catch of the innings and left Australia with a score of 145-7 and once more struggling to post anything around 200.

To get anywhere close to that type of score Hussey needed some support from the rest of the lower order as he got from Lee. Mitchell Johnson was not to be that man he chipped Sreesanth straight to cover for three to leave Australia 151-8

Dhoni had a superb day behind the stumps claiming three catches and affecting a stumping, his one blemish was a dropped catch, Nathan Bracken was the fortunate batsman. The drop didn't prove to be too costly however as just a few balls later Bracken attempted to go over the top and played a wild heave across the leg side and was caught in the inner circle by Tendulkar to give Sreesanth his third wicket and the Australians were 155-9 and it seemed certain they would appear well short of a competitive total even with Hussey at the crease.

Indeed just a few over later Ishant Sharma the man who did so much of the damage earlier in the innings came back to pick up wicket of Stuart Clark. Hussey was left stranded on 65 not out; a great innings given the circumstances, but Australia ended up 159 all out.

The Indian team and fans will be really encouraged by their enthusiasm in the field and the way their side bowled.

Chasing a modest score like 160, as India were, some sides might have an element of doubt as to how they should approach the run chase, go at it hard from the start, or bat cautiously and pace the innings.

However, with two ultra aggressive batsman in the shape of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar opening the batting for India and with an array of big hitters to follow there was never any doubt of how India were going to approach their run chase.

Both Tendulkar and Sehwag have been in excellent form in recent times and the nature of their stroke play early on proved that point.

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