| MoM Mahendra Singh Dhoni in action in Chandigarh on Monday. (PTI)
Chandigarh: Team India’s resilience came through in their remarkable eight-run win over an equally determined Australia in the fourth one-day International at the Sector 16 Stadium here on Monday.
It was India’s first ODI win over the Aussies since January 2004. They lost 11 times to the world champions between that Brisbane triumph and Monday’s victory.
Man of the Match Mahendra Singh Dhoni led from the front, making a quickfire unbeaten 50 and effecting two fine stumpings. The captain rightly gave everyone credit for the victory that kept the seven-match series alive.
Significantly, there was no on-field acrimony which had been a feature in the previous two contests (Kochi and Hyderabad).
The hosts came through in a close finish despite superb efforts by Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds. The experienced duo ensured that the Aussie chase spilled into the last over even as the inspired Indians fought tooth and nail.
It was indeed a real team effort. R.P. Singh’s strong comeback in his second spell with wickets off consecutive balls; the tight 48th over by recalled left-arm spinner Murali Kartik; the miserly spell by Harbhajan Singh; the contribution by the seniors (Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly).
Chasing India’s 291 for four, Australia looked like romping home at one stage. The fans in the near capacity stadium went quiet, but the 47th over by RP changed the contest.
Symonds, who scored 75 off 84 deliveries and kept the momentum going, was bowled by RP’s fifth ball, leaving Australia at 268 for six.
Brad Hogg was run out off the next ball as RP broke the stumps after a smart pick-up.
The battle was not fully won as Australia needed only 22 in the last four overs. Kartik, though, dashed Aussie hopes with a fine over.
Neither James Hopes nor Brett Lee looked comfortable and could manage only two in the 48th over.
It was then left to RP and Zaheer Khan to put the finishing touches. RP once again did a good job and conceded only six.
Australia needed 16 from the last over. The crowd turned silent as Hopes drove the first ball for a straight four. But that was it as far as Aussie bravado was concerned.
Zaheer bowled a splendid length to concede only three off the next five balls to see India through.
Things were not that rosy in the early overs. India once again failed to contain Hayden and Symonds, who nearly took the match away.
If Symonds’s innings was a bit patient, Hayden was at his strokeful best. The left-hander hit 92 off as many balls with the help of 11 fours and two sixes. Had not Kartik forced him to offer a straightforward catch to Zaheer at mid-wicket, India would have struggled to make it 1-2.
Like in the bowling and fielding departments, the Indian batsmen also came up with an improved performance. Sourav (41) celebrated his return to the team with a 91-run opening partnership with Sachin (79) that set the base for a healthy total.
Sourav, who struck six fours, was very impressive till he was caught-behind off an innocuous delivery.
Sachin struggled initially against Lee. But after getting his eye in, Sachin looked solid.
In the end overs, Dhoni and Robin Uthappa stroked freely. The last over from Nathan Bracken went for 20 as the Indian captain completed his half century.