Australia repel late fightback to clinch thriller

India go down by four runs despite spirited Harbhajan-Praveen stand

Australia repel late fightback  to clinch thriller

Australian players congratulate each other after winning the first one day international cricket match against India, at Vadodara on Sunday. Australia won by four runs. (AP)In pursuit of a daunting 292 for eight posted by the Aussies, India fell short by just four runs to finish second best in game one of the seven-match series, but the hosts came away with more to build on than Ricky Ponting’s men ahead of Wednesday’s second match in Nagpur.

Seemingly out for the count at 201 for seven, Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar joined hands and, in a breathtaking batting show dotted with innovative strokes and stunning hits, took India almost to the finish line before Peter Siddle held his nerve in the final over to bowl Australia to victory here at the Reliance stadium on Sunday. India finished on 288 for eight, one blow away from overturning the scoreline.

Both Harbhajan (49, 31b, 4x4, 3x6) and Praveen (40 nn.o., 32b, 5x4, 1x6) had come under the cosh by the Australian batsmen, but the duo got its own back, carting their bowlers around while adding 84 in 57 balls to revive Indian hopes that had all but vanished after the top-order had collapsed with only Gautam Gambhir (68, 85b, 6x4, 1x6) contributing anything significant.

A sore elbow meant Ponting couldn’t bowl out Brett Lee’s quota, but the Indians weren’t complaining. Needing 29 from the last two overs, Harbhajan and Praveen punished a wayward Shane Watson for 20 runs (1, 4, 4, 1, 4, 6) in the 49th over to turn the game on its head. Nine required off the final over, India could manage only four as Siddle cleaned up Harbhajan while Praveen failed to pull off that one crucial hit. But as the all-round applause at the full-to-the brim stadium indicated, India might have been defeated but they were hardly disgraced.

Coming into the match, both the force and the momentum were with Australia, who made capital of largely lacklustre bowling and disappointing fielding after opting to bat first. The early start to the game meant there was always going to be some assistance for the seamers, and both Ashish Nehra and Praveen did make the ball dart around in the initial overs, the former ending Watson’s stay with a delivery that moved in and caught the batsman plumb in front.

Ponting (74, 85b, 8x4, 2x6) then linked up with Tim Paine in the most productive partnership of the innings (97 off 107 balls). After exercising some caution, the two began to play freely once the juice in the pitch had been squeezed out. Nehra looked the more impressive of the two pacemen, exploiting all the help the conditions had to offer him, but came in for some stick after Ponting and Paine got the measure of things. Replacing an expensive Praveen, Ishant Shrama was welcomed with a four off his first ball by Ponting, but the paceman didn’t allow the batsmen to dictate terms in his seven-over first spell.

Cameron White (51, 68b, 3x4, 1x6) and Ponting added a further 49 before Jadeja managed to beat the latter’s defensive push to trap him leg before. There was no respite for India as southpaw Michael Hussey (73, 54b, 8x4, 1x6) joined White to pile on the bowlers’ misery. The left-right combination plundered 76 runs when it decided to take the batting power play from the 43rd over.

With seven wickets in hand, India appeared to be in for a long haul but they salvaged the situation, picking up three wickets while giving away 33 runs. Man of the match Hussey, however, clattered Ishant and Praveen around for 31 runs in the next two overs to make up for that quiet period in the power play. A score of 300 looked imminent but Ishant bowled a brilliant final over to concede just one run while ejecting Hussey with the first and Lee with the last ball. In the end, though, it was Australia who had the last laugh, even if it was a nervous one.

SCORE BOARD

AUSTRALIA

Watson lbw Nehra    5
(6b, 1x4)
Paine c Dhoni b Ishant    50
(62b, 9x4)
Ponting lbw Jadeja    74
(85b, 8x4, 2x6)
White c Raina b Nehra    51
(68b, 3x4, 2x6)
Hussey c Kohli b Ishant    73
(54b, 8x4, 1x6)
Voges c Gambhir b Harbhajan    3
(7b)
Hopes (run out)    14
(10b, 1x6)
Johnson (not out)    14
(8b, 2x4)
Lee b Ishant    0
(3b)
Extras (LB-2, W-4, NB-2    )8
Total (for 8 wkts, 50 overs)    292
Fall of wickets: 1-6 (Watson), 2-102 (Paine), 3-151 (Ponting), 4-227 (White), 5-233 (Voges), 6-256 (Hopes), 7-291 (Hussey), 8-292 (Lee).
Bowling: Praveen 10-0-77-0 (w-2), Nehra 10-0-58-2 (nb-1), Ishant 10-0-50-3 (nb-1), Harbhajan 10-0-57-1 (w-2), Jadeja 9-0-39-1, Raina: 1-0-9-0.  
Runs during: Power Play 1: 1-10 overs: 56/1; Power Play 2: 11-15 overs: 27/0; Power Play 3 (batting): 43-47 overs: 33/3. 

INDIA

Sehwag c Paine b Lee    13
(11b, 2x4)
Tendulkar c Ponting b Watson    14
(29b, 2x4)
Gambhir lbw Johnson    68
(85b, 6x4, 1x6)
Kohli c Watson b Voges    30
(41b, 3x4)
Dhoni c Lee b Watson    34
(46b, 4x4)
Raina c & b Johnson    9
(10b, 1x6)
Jadeja lbw Hauritz    5
(13b)
Harbhajan b Siddle    49
(31b, 4x4, 3x6)
Praveen (not out)    40
(32b, 5x4, 1x6)
Nehra (not out)    2
(2b)
Extras (LB-10, W-14)    24
Total (for 8 wkts, 50 overs)    288

Fall of wickets: 1-25 (Sehwag), 2-45 (Tendulkar), 3-103 (Kohli), 4-167 (Gambhir), 5-183 (Raina), 6-186 (Dho-ni), 7-201 (Jadeja), 8-285 (Harbhajan).
Bowling: Lee 6-0-28-0, Siddle 9-0-55-1 (w-7), Watson 10-0-70-2, Johnson 10-0-59-2 (w-7), Hopes 2-0-10-0, Voges 4-0-22-1, Hauritz 9-1-34-1.
Runs during Power Play 1: 1-10 overs: 49/2; Power Play 2: 11-15 overs: 25/0; Power Play 3 (batting): 35-39 overs: 32/3.

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