The last edition of the Commonwealth Bank Series has witnessed some of the fiercest battles, both on field and off field, especially between India and Australia. The first finals at the Sydney Cricket Ground witnessed the world champions, the Australians, being beaten by Team India under Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. India comfortably chased the target of 242 with 25 balls left and 6 wickets in hand. The win was scripted by the master-blaster and the most experienced player in world cricket today, Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin scored his first century in Australia and guided India to victory.
The Australian captain won the toss today and elected to bat. Dhoni, known for his brave decisions, today too, decided to take a risk. He included the young leg spinner from Uttar Pradesh, Piyush Chawla to accompany Harbhajan in the playing eleven ahead of Virender Sehwag and Munaf Patel. Dhoni handed the new ball to Pravin Kumar, who did not disappoint Dhoni’s decision. Kumar bowled excellent line and length and took two crucial wickets of Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting to give early blows to Australia. Ishant Sharma then picked the wicket of Michael Clarke that reduced Australia to 24 for 3 in 6 overs. Matthew Hayden, who was in controversy last week, played a gritty innings of 82 and added 100 runs for the fourth wicket with Andrew Symonds. The Australians were looking comfortable and scoring briskly until Symonds was undone by Harbhajan in flight. He was caught on midwicket by Pravin Kumar. Soon after, Matthew Hayden was caught out to his ‘friend’ Harbhajan Singh, when he was caught brilliantly by Chawla at deep square leg. These two wickets and exceptional bowling by Harbhajan (38 for 2 in 10 overs) and Chawla (33 for 0 in 10 overs) brought India back in the match. Mike Hussey and Bradd Hogg batted sensibly to ensure that Australia went beyond 200. A little cameo by Brett Lee in the end took the Australian Team’s total to a competitive 239 for 8. It was one of the off days for Irfan Pathan. He gave away 63 runs in 7 overs.
It is never easy to chase a target under lights and that too, in Sydney. Indian openers, Sachin Tendulkar and Robin Uthappa, started cautiously and laid the foundation for a successful chase. Uthappa was caught by Mike Hussey at the mid wicket off James Hopes. Hussey took the most stunning catch of the tournament. The Aussie smelt the blood and fielded exceptionally well. A misunderstanding between Sachin and Gambhir led to fall of Gambhir’s wicket. Yuvraj was bowled by Bradd Hogg for 10. The scoreboard read 87 for 3. Rohit Sharma came next to join the master blaster who was playing a very crafty knock. They batted with great determination and caution. The 123 run stand took the game away from Australia. Sachin was at his best today. He was bit shaky at the onset, but once he went to the groove he ensured that he won the match for India.
Time and again, a lot has been written and said regarding Sachin’s form and age. He has given answers to all those today who had questioned his place in the team and his level of commitment. This is the quality of the genius, who has always let the bat do the talking. Sachin played in all the directions and pierced the in-field with cut-over slips, cover drives, back-foot punches and inside out shots. Sachin had to battle out cramps and a muscle pull in his groin during the later part of his innings. However, he broke the jinx of getting out in 90s and reached a deserving and match-winning century. He remained unbeaten on 117. This innings was one of the best innings by Sachin in the finals of a tournament, after a long time. The clever knock by the master took pressure off the young Rohit Sharma. He played calmly with good defensive and attacking shots. Sharma showed great determination and good temperament to reach his 3rd half century in ODIs. He was bowled for 66 by Hopes. India then required 30 of 50 odd balls. Finally, Mahendra Dhoni and Sachin lead India to victory, their first in Sydney after the 11 one day matches at the venue.
Sachin and Sharma played innings full of class, exuberance and elegance, that too, when the team needed it. Sachin was awarded the Man of the Match and gave credit to the entire team. He was full of praise for Rohit Sharma and said that “He has a great future”. I sincerely hope that India will wrap up the series in Brisbane and will return on a high note after a very long and controversial summer in Down Under.
[Image courtesy: http://cricket.com.au/_content/document/00000136-src.jpg]