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Monday, March 03, 2008

Tendulkar strokes India to victory: CB series final #1

India 4/242 [45.5 overs] (S Tendulkar 117 no, R Sharma 66) defeated Australia 8/239 [50 overs] (M Hayden 82, M Hussey 45) by 6 wickets with 25 balls to spare: CB Series first final at SCG.

This was yet another excellent ODI, one which showed the 50 over game at its best. (Will we keep hearing the cries about how dull this format has become?) There was good batting, bowling and fielding and, while the final margin was emphatic, Australia remained in the game until well into India's innings.

Australia won the toss in and, as is virtually mandatory at the SCG, opted to bat. Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma were among the wickets early, as Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke were dismissed in short order: 0/16 became 3/24. Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds went into attack mode (with their bats, not their tongues) and regained the psychological ascendancy by belting Irfan Pathan out of the attack and treating some of the other bowlers, including Harbhajan Singh, roughly. But Bhaji persisted and, just as the partnership notched 100, had Symonds, who had hitherto chosen his shots carefully, caught at deep mid wicket. At 4/124 from 23.1 overs several scenarios looked possible.

It was spin at both ends as the young and diminutive Piyush Chawla bowled an impressive spell of leg spin (10-0-33-0) which helped rein in the scoring rate(Who is the best 19 yo leggie in Australia, and at what level is he - or she - playing?) He showed that he's a very good fielder too when he caught Hayden well at deep backward square leg off Harbhajan.

Hayden's 82/88b (10x4, 0x6) was an impressive innings, but at 5/135 from 27.3 overs India were on top, though commentators like Kerry O'Keefe were talking about 250 - 260 being enough on the SCG wicket. The lower order Australians fought hard but even Hussey wasn't able to stamp his authority on the game: he was 7th out at 212 off the last ball of the 47th over for 45/67b. Fortunately in the last three overs Brad Hogg, Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson raised the total to a more respectable (and competitive) 239.

Robin Uthappa (not Virender Sehwag) opened with Tendulkar, who led the attack without being reckless against the new ball. 50 was posted from 63 balls but Uthappa fell
three balls later to a great Hussey outfield catch off James Hopes. Gautam Gambhir was run out for 3, but Sachin reached his 50 before Yuvraj was bowled by Hogg. 3/87 from 18.5 overs and the match seemngly evenly poised.

But the little master rose to the occasion and saw India home with, surprisingly, his first ODI century in Australia. He was well supported by Rohit Sharma's 66/87b in a partnership of 123 in 136b.

If they were to win, Australia needed to induce the kind of collapse they've sometimes done in the past against less capable opposition. But Tendulkar, despite an injury, was in top gear and skipper MS Dhoni was in no mood to let the chance of going one up in the finals slip out of his grasp. The Australian bowling was below par (or was it just made to look that way by the Indians' brilliance?), and could not lift the several notches they needed.

And so to Brisbane for the second final. India seem to have some injury problems eg Tendulkar, Ishant Sharma, but they have some good reserves (eg Sehwag). Australia 's best chance probably lies in the hands of the batting which has been sub standard, a few individual innings excepted, for most of the series.

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