303-4 (50 ovs)
284 (49.4 ovs)
Brisbane: The batsmen fired once again, and this time, they were backed up well by young seamers Irfan Pathan and Lakshmipathy Balaji, as India posted a thrilling 19-run win over Australia in their third tri-series match on Sunday.
The victory was all the more sweet because it was India’s first over Australia Down Under in more than 12 years. Also, it confirmed that the hosts will really have to work hard in order to put it across Sourav Ganguly’s team if they are to live up to their world champion status.
It was sweet revenge for India too, who had narrowly lost to the same team in the tri-series opener in Melbourne on January 9. Even after the defeat, Australia lead the table with 18 points from four matches. India have 12 from three and Zimbabwe are yet to score their first after three outings.
After posting 303 for four, mainly built around a heroic unbeaten 103 by V.V.S. Laxman, the Indian bowlers stuck to their task admirably to stop the world champions at 284 in 49.4 overs despite a brilliant 109 by Matthew Hayden.
Apart from Laxman’s 113-ball 103, Sachin Tendulkar defied an ankle injury to score 86 and Rahul Dravid hit a quickfire 74 to provide the foundation for a rare Indian victory over the hosts who kept losing wickets at regular intervals to suffer their first defeat in this tri-series.
India’s win was all the more remarkable given the fact that barring Anil Kumble and Ashish Nehra, the rest of the bowlers were raw and inexperienced. In absence of the injured Ajit Agarkar, rookie seamers Balaji and Pathan did exceedingly well and shared seven wickets.
Pathan, expensive in the beginning, finished with three for 64 in 9.4 overs and Balaji returned four for 48 in ten overs. Pathan’s scalps included openers Adam Gilchrist and Hayden. His third victim was Michael Clarke, who was the second highest-scorer for the home team with a fighting 42.
Balaji also bowled a probing line and hardly gave away anything. The Aussies had got off to a flying start as Hayden and Gilchrist put on 46 in 5.4 overs before the latter’s attempted pull off Pathan landed in the hands of Balaji at mid-on. Balaji enjoyed his best day of the summer, claiming Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn in his first spell of seven overs for 38 runs.
India batted as well as they could, powered by Laxman’s third ODI hundred, and posted their highest score in Australia, which was also the best by any team at the Gabba. Tendulkar was in his elements, Laxman was his usual elegant self and Dravid provided the all-important thrust.
Australia’s agony was mirrored in Brett Lee’s figures of one for 83 from ten overs, the worst ever by any bowler in Australia and the second worst by an Australian — topped by Lee himself who had gone for 85 against Pakistan at Cardiff in 2001.
Laxman, who came in at No. 3 in the eighth over, compromised with his batting style and played quite a few slogs and uncharacteristic cross-batted shots to complete his hundred (off the last ball of the innings) from 113 balls with eight fours.
He was inspired by a courageous knock from Tendulkar who hobbled on one leg, refused a runner, and still gave India a strong base. The maestro had twisted his right ankle early while attempting a single in the second over but still smashed 86 from 95 balls.
The little master was in so much pain that he nearly always used his bat as a crutch. He received attention from physio Andrew Leipus, had a bandage put around his ankle at the first drinks interval, but still batted till the 29th over when he hit a return catch off the backfoot to Andrew Symonds.
Earlier, Sourav came out to open in the absence of Virender Sehwag, who opted out with a shoulder strain.
The skipper had just hit Jason Gillespie over point for a four and six and then smashed Brad Williams on the off-side for a four before being surprised by a lifting delivery and lobbed an easy return catch.
Rohan Gavaskar replaced Sehwag in the XI, to follow his illustrious father Sunil Gavaskar into the international arena. Rohan faced just three balls of which he made two, but took the important wicket of Andrew Symonds.
Tendulkar and Laxman put on 110 runs for the second wicket from 125 balls and set the launching pad which propelled India past their previous best of 270 in Australia — made in Melbourne in the first match of this series.
Dravid seemed eager and fresh and ran between wickets brilliantly to raise his half-century from just 49 balls with three fours.
The vice-captain twice hit Ian Harvey for fours in the 48th over before lifting a catch straight to long-off, bringing an end to the entertaining third-wicket stand of 133 from 118 balls. His knock came off only 64 balls and contained four fours.