Chandigarh : Batsmen found form and bowlers kept their nerves to help India register a thrilling eight-run win over Australia in the fourth One-day International here Monday and keep the series alive.
With this win, confirmed only off the last ball of the match, India have reduced Australia’s lead to 1-2 in the seven-match Future Cup series.
Half-centuries from Sachin Tendulkar (79, 119 balls, 7x4s) and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (50 not out, 35 balls, 5x4s, 1×6) and useful contributions from Sourav Ganguly (41, 59 balls, 6x4s) and local lad Yuvraj Singh (39, 55 balls, 5x4s) helped India to 291 for four wickets in 50 overs.
This total was made possible with a generous contribution from Australians who conceded a whopping 39 extras, including 31 wides. Pacer James Hopes took two wickets at the Sector 16 Stadium, a venue where the previous international match was played 14 years ago.
In reply, Australia scored 283 for seven wickets in 50 overs, with opener Matthew Hayden emerging as the top scorer with a hard-hitting 92 (92 balls, 11x4s, 2x6s).
Rudra Pratap Singh and Harbhajan Singh took two wickets apiece while the fielding and catching was sharp.
Dhoni, who effected two brilliant stumpings besides his contribution with the bat, was adjudged the Man of the Match.
After the first match in Bangalore, which was abandoned due to rains, Australia won in Kochi and Hyderabad to take a 2-0 lead. But India pulled one back here to keep alive the series.
Australia started the chase briskly but the opening pair of Adam Gilchrist and Hayden lasted just five overs and added 37 runs rather briskly at an average of 7.16.
Left-arm pacer R.P. Singh, who replaced S. Sreesanth in the XI as one of the three changes, broke the partnership with a shot-pitched ball and Gilchrist’s pull was safely taken by Zaheer Khan.
Hayden and captain Ricky Ponting (29) guided the innings further as they dominated the Indian attack.
Ponting made his intentions clear by hitting three boundaries in the 10th over of the innings from R.P. Singh, which forced Dhoni to take the second five-over Power Play. Hayden welcomed Dhoni’s move by hitting Zaheer for a six and a four in the next over the gangling.
The pair added 85 at 6.45 per over for the second wicket before Dhoni, standing close to the stumps to Irfan Pathan, stumped Ponting.
What was surprising that TV umpire G.A. Pratapkumar took unusually long to arrive at the decision, which made Ponting visibly unhappy and he said something to the on-field umpire before leaving the field.
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh gave India another reason to celebrate when he caught Michael Clarke (6) off his own bowling as Australian’s suddenly slumped to 132/3 from 122/1.
But another Australian wicket took long to come as Hayden and Andrew Symonds raised 58 runs with some hard hitting shots.
Left-arm spinner Murali Katik broke the stand when Hayden lost his grip on the bat handle while playing a lofted shot and Zaheer held the catch in the deep.
In-form Symonds continued the good work in the company of Brad Hodge (17) and both stitched 56 runs for the fifth wicket.
Dhoni effected a brilliant stumping to get rid of Hodge off Harbhajan. The batsman tried to turn the ball, drifting down the leg, lost balance and Dhoni whipped off the bails. Australia: 246/5.
Soon Symonds followed Hodge, bowled by R.P. Singh as the batsman tried to play a cut shot. Australia: 268/6. At the same score, Brad Hogg also departed after R.P. Singh brilliantly ran him out when he unnecessarily tried to steal a run right under the bowler’s nose.
After that the Australian tail failed to wag while the Indian bowlers kept their nerves and bowled the end overs tightly to see the team through before an overflowing stadium.
Earlier, the tried and tested combination of Tendulkar and Ganguly launched the Indian innings by putting on 91 extremely cautiously made runs.
Ganguly, who had been rested in the previous match in Hyderabad, joined Tendulkar, who has been struggling for runs in this series. But Monday he finally rediscovered his touch after struggling initially.
Fast bowlers Brett Lee and left-armer Nathan Bracken beat Tendulkar any number of times with their speed and swing as the maestro struggled to put bat to ball.
Frustrated, Tendulkar changed his bat after two overs. But his playing and missing continued and he survived a few loud and confident appeals for leg before the wicket.
Mitchell Johnson, the third fast bowler, also generated appreciable swing that kept the openers on the back foot. The dominance of the Australian pace attack could be measured from the fact that Tendulkar, uncharacteristically, was completely defending as the pacers generated speed up to 151 kmph.
Unlike Ganguly, who often tried to score quickly by lofting the ball, Tendulkar scored two from 19 balls, three in 27, 10 in 39 and so on. Ganguly soon took charge of scoring runs while Tendulkar dropped anchor.
Ganguly (41, 59 balls, 6x4s) was the man to get out, snicking a wide ball from pacer James Hopes to wicketkeeper Gilchrist, who was standing up.
Another good partnership of 83 ensued between Tendulkar and the in-form Yuvraj Singh, promoted to No.3 at his home ground, looked set to build on his century in Hyderabad.
The stand was broken when Yuvraj played a lofted drive but ended up giving a catch to Ponting at extra cover.
Captain Dhoni and Tendulkar stepped up the run rate further. This pair scored 47 together in 16 overs at a rate of 8.05.
This scoring rate was surpassed only by the Dhoni-Robin Uthappa (30 not out, 18 balls, 6x4s) pair, which hammered 47 runs off just 4.1 overs (at 11.28 per over) to close the innings on a happy note.
Only Rahul Dravid (13) failed to make a significant contribution as for the first time most specialist batsmen clicked in the same innings.
Earlier, India had made three changes in the side that lost in Hyderabad. R.P. Singh, Ganguly and Murali Kartik replaced Sreesanth, Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma while Australia brought in Bracken for Stuart Clark.
Fourth ODI, India vs. Australia, Sector 16 Stadium, Chandigarh
Sourav Ganguly c Gilchrist b Hopes 41
Sachin Tendulkar run out (Lee) 79
Yuvraj Singh c Ponting b Hopes 39
Mahendra Singh Dhoni not out 50
Rahul Dravid b Bracken 13
Robin Uthappa not out 30
Extras: (byes 1, leg byes 7, wides 31) 39
Total: (for four wickets in 50 overs) 291
Fall of wickets: 1-91 (Ganguly, 19.6 overs), 2-174 (Yuvraj, 35.6), 3-221 (Tendulkar, 41.5), 4-244 (Dravid, 45.5)
Brett Lee 7 1 26 0 (3w)
Nathan Bracken 10 0 78 1 (4w)
Mitchell Johnson 8 0 51 0 (3w)
James Hopes 9 0 43 2 (1w)
Andrew Symonds 7 0 39 0 (3w)
Brad Hogg 9 0 46 0
Adam Gilchrist c Zaheer b R.P. Singh 18
Matthew Hayden c Zaheer b Kartik 92
Ricky Ponting st Dhoni b Pathan 29
Michael Clarke c & b Harbhajan 6
Andrew Symonds b R.P. Singh 75
Brad Hodge st Dhoni b Harbhajan 17
James Hopes not out 23
Brad Hogg run out (R.P. Singh) 0
Brett Lee not out 5
Extras: (lb 5, w 13) 18
Total: (for seven wickets in 50 overs) 283
Fall of wickets: 1-37 (Gilchrist, 5.1 overs), 2-122 (Ponting, 18.2), 3-132 (Clarke, 21.4), 4-190 (Hayden, 33.5), 5-246 (Hodge, 43.2), 6-268 (Symonds, 46.5), 7-268 (Hogg, 46.6)
Zaheer Khan 9 0 68 0 (2w)
Rudra Pratap Singh 10 1 66 2 (9w)
Ifran Pathan 10 0 46 1 (1w)
Sourav Ganguly 1 0 7 0
Harbhajan Singh 10 0 43 2 (1w)
Murali Kartik 10 0 48 1
Umpires: Steve Bucknor (West Indies) and Suresh Shastri (India)
TV umpire: G.A. Pratapkumar (India)
Match referee: Chris Broad (England)