The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India labour to low target
- Tri-series - Pathan (4/24), Bhandari (3/31) strike as Zimbabwe fall for 135

Perth: John Buchanan has already gone on record saying the Indian top-order looked vulnerable the other day against Australia here.

It might be a psychological ploy, but India had every opportunity on Tuesday to prove the Aussie coach wrong. They won alright against Zimbabwe, but it was far from convincing. Winning by four wickets chasing a paltry 135Ö Brett Lee and Co. might just be licking their lips.

However, Irfan Pathan had the perfect practice before the final. He ran through the Zimbabwe top-order finishing with career-best four for 24, as Zimbabwe were skittled out for 135 in 34.4 overs. Indian batsmen struggled on a lively WACA track but finally reached the target in the 31st over.

India finish on 29 points from eight games while Zimbabwe had to be content with six. Australia topped the league table with 37 points. Hemang Badani top scored with an unbeaten 34, but it isnít the most memorable innings the Tamil Nadu left-hander has played.

He got a reprieve on eight and struggled to put bat to ball throughout his stay at the crease. He received a telling blow on the helmet and was also involved in the run out of Rohan Gavaskar. Yet he scratched around to score the winning run, a clip off the pads to fine-leg boundary that put an end to Indiaís nightmare.

Zimbabwe will go back home without a single win against their name, but they will surely have a few positives coming out of Tuesdayís game.

Stuart Matsikenyeri played a rearguard innings of 36 which helped his team from falling short of their previous lowest total of 133 against India.

Earlier, Sean Ervine (23) and Stuart Carlisle (28) tried a counter-attack after being reduced to three for 11, but it didnít take them too far. But it was the 19-year old Pathan who hogged all the limelight.

He struck twice in the very first over to remove Vusi Sibanda and Tatenda Taibu. The Baroda left-armer then had Dion Ebrahim (7) caught by V.V. S Laxman in the seventh over.

Right-arm medium-pacer Amit Bhandari (three for 31) gave fine support as India exploited the hard and seaming WACA track to perfection.

The early loss of wickets put a question mark on Streakís decision to bat first after winning the toss, especially after Indiaís below-par batting display on Monday.

The 63-run fourth wicket partnership between Carlisle and Ervine was the only phase when Zimbabwe offered some resistance. But a brilliant piece of fielding by Yuvraj Singh, who beat Carlisle, backing up at the non-strikerís end, with a direct hit that gave India the vital breakthrough.

The rest, barring Matsikenyeri, failed to reach double-figures and it was the extrasí tally of 24, that gave Zimbabwe some boost. Ervine failed to negotiate the steep bounce generated by Bhandari and Murali Kartik, substituting for Ashish Nehra, took an excellent catch diving forward.

Nehra (one for 39) had a dreadful start, slipping on his first delivery and never really looked in the best of his rhythm. Laxmanís impressive tour Down Under continued as he grabbed four catches in the slips.

His innings of 32 also had a calming influence when the Indians were losing wickets in a hurry. Sachin Tendulkar (3) fell early while Virender Sehwag (22) survived a little longer before falling to Andy Blignaut.

Blignaut then disturbed Rahul Dravidís timber, who was the stand-in captain for this game after Sourav Ganguly decided to take a break. When Yuvraj fell at the score of 73, Zimbabwe may have entertained an outside chance to clinch the elusive win.

Laxman was lucky to see his top-edged pull spilled by Carlisle running 20 yards from slip towards fine-leg. At the other end, Badani looked out of touch and seemed unsure whether to go forward or backward.

He slashed a wide a delivery from friend straight to Streak but the Zimbabwe captain had the setting sun in his eyes and the ball sped through his hands to point boundary.

A rising delivery from Ervine (two for 29) then struck Laxman on the throat and the ball rolled on to the stumps, to leave the Indians at five for 105.

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