Yuvraj, Dhoni steer India home

Hosts open up 2-1 lead after a clinical six-wicket victory on a slow Kotla surface

Yuvraj, Dhoni steer India home

 On a Super Saturday, the outrageously talented left-hander vetted his appetite by powering India to a six-wicket win over Australia in the third one-dayer at the Feroze Shah Kotla.

After winning the toss for the third time in as many matches, Ricky Ponting expectedly opted to bat. True its reputation, the Kotla pitch stayed low and slow while Australia battled their way to 229 for five, a total which was never going be easy to achieve. The game was evenly poised till about 32nd over when Yuvraj decided cut loose. The next four overs saw 35 runs scored off them as the momentum shifted decisively towards India. Skipper MS Dhoni (70 n.o., 95b, 6x4) too continued his rich vein of form notching up a calculated half-century to see the team home as India replied with 230/4 in 48.2 overs to take a 2-1 lead in the seven-match series.
 Few can match Yuvraj’s grace and ferocity when in full cry. The Australians and the top three Indian batsmen had struggled to cope with the low bounce and turn of the pitch, but the southpaw appeared least affected by the traps laid in the surface. The Indian chase, however, wasn’t all about Yuvraj’s stunning hits. After they were reduced to 53 for three, Yuvraj and Dhoni held the innings together milking the Australian attack. It was akin to Gautam Gambhir-Dhoni consolidation in Nagpur, only that this time Yuvraj decided switch gears.      
  
 Faced with the extraordinary situation, which has rendered three of his key players hors de combat, Ponting, only for the second time in his career, opened the innings for Australia in one-dayers and the skipper did acquit himself well with a measured half-century. The visitors, however, owed their fighting total to Michael Hussey’s matured knock (81 n.o., 82b, 3x4, 1x6).

 Australia effected three changes to their side from the previous match as Shaun Marsh and Ben Hilfenhaus made way for Moises Henriques and Doug Bollinger while Graham Manou took the place of injured wicket-keeper and opener Tim Paine. With no regular opener in the side, Ponting took the responsibility upon himself to link up with Shane Watson at the top and the duo laid a sound base to the innings adding 72 runs between it.

 Fully aware that anything around 220 was going to be a competitive total, the Australians went about their task in a meticulous fashion. The hard, new white ball did assist some stroke-play initially but once it became soft, going for strokes was an exercise in vain. Both Hussey and Ponting relied heavily on rotation of the strike to keep the score board moving as they went boundary-less during their 56-run association.
 Ponting’s dismissal was followed by Cameron White’s departure but Adam Voges stood firm for a while with a firmer Hussey. After the consolidation process, Voges scored Australia’s first boundary in almost 22 overs even as Hussey struck his first four after facing 46 balls. Barring these pockets of aggression, the Australian innings had to depend on singles and twos against a largely disciplined Indian attack and a much-improved fielding.

 Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja apart, Harbhajan Singh, aided in no small measure by the helpful pitch, bowled with purpose for the first time in the series. With the surface offering considerable turn, Dhoni banked on spinners to do the job for him, Jadeja, Harbhajan, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, taking care of 33 overs between them. Dhoni wasn’t off the mark in relying on his slow bowlers, but it was strange to see him under-bowl a parsimonious Praveen who gave away just 16 runs in his five overs while giving an extended run to a somewhat off-colour Ashish Nehra.   

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