Australia survive late scare to draw first blood
by Jinu Sabastian

Player:RT Ponting, TD Paine, MEK Hussey, CL White, G Gambhir

DateLine: 25th October 2009


The seven match series got off to an excellent start as India chasing a challenging score of 293 on a deteriorating pitch fell short by just four runs. Electing to bat first the Australian team ran up a score of 292 in their 50 overs thanks to some brilliant batting from Ponting, Paine, Hussey and White while for India only Gambhir crossed the fifty run mark. The top order fell apart only for Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar to launch a late assault to give India a glimpse of hope.


Ricky Ponting on winning the toss had no hesitation in electing to bat first. Shane Watson opening the innings with Tim Paine caressed the first ball of the innings from Praveen Kumar through mid-on to indicate that he has not lost any form that he displayed in Champions Trophy. But Nehra brought an end to his innings when he curved one back into him to trap him leg before. With the ball moving around, Ponting looked scratchy while Paine decided to take the matters into his own hands by counterattacking. Kumar was able to induce a couple of edges from the bat off Paine but either the edges fell short or evaded the slip fielders. Paine negated the movement that Nehra and Kumar was able to generate by moving down the track thus forcing the pace duo to opt for the shorter length and the keeper- batsman executed some crisp cut shots and powerful pulls. Ponting slowly got into his stride and began to go on the offensive and Dhoni was soon looking for answers. Dhoni rung in changes bringing in Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh the two bowlers who has tormented Ricky Ponting in the past. But Ponting realising that Sharma was low on confidence and Harbhajan was going through a difficult patch began to attack the duo relentlessly thus blunting Dhoniís options. Dhoni soon realised that h had not one but three misfiring bowlers at his disposal and waited for the Powerplays to be done with.


Once the Powerplays were over and the field spread out Dhoni could afford to protect his bowlers by employing defensive fields to restrict the batsmen. The pair added 97 runs to negate the loss of early wicket before Sharma induced an outside edge from Paine to jolt the Australian charge. Ponting meanwhile motored on to his 74th half century to power Australia to a position of strength. Jadeja who was brought on as the fifth bowling option finally struck when he trapped Ponting leg before with a one that kept low. Just when it seemed that the momentum would swing in the favour of the Indian side, White and Hussey doused any such hopes. Both the batsmen began collecting the runs in singles while striking the odd boundary. Hussey was the aggressor off the two as he fetched the boundaries regularly and soon he was going at better than run a ball.


White completed a serene half-century and soon the pair took the batting Powerplay in the 42nd over to boost the run-rate. Trying to up the ante White tried to slog a slower one from Nehra out off the ground only to top edge to Raina at covers. The Hussey-White partnership had been worth 76 and continued on the solid platform built by Ponting and Paine. Voges holed out in the deep off Harbhajan while Hopes was run-out in a calamitous mix-up with Hussey. Hussey pierced the field several times for boundaries in the final overs and an enormous six off an expensive Praveen Kumar in the penultimate over. In the final over he sent a catch down deep midwicket's throat as Ishant Sharma delivered a brilliant 50th over that brought two wickets for one run.


India in reply got of to a perfect start when Sehwag send the first two balls off the innings to boundary to kick-start the Indian innings. Tendulkar looked scratchy as it was evident that he kept mistiming most of the balls that he received. Sehwag tried to continue with his cavalier method before an outside edge off Lee was snaffled up by Paine behind the stumps. Tendulkar tried to break by trying to drive Watson through the covers but could only find Ponting at extra-cover and with India at 45 for 2 it looked like the Indian team was wobbling. Kohli send up the order partnered Gambhir to steady the Indian innings as India kept in touch with the required run-rate. The pair added 58 runs in 12.3 overs before Kohliís impetuous attitude got better off him. Kohli's eyes lit up at the introduction of the part-time spinner Adam Voges and skied a catch to long-off, where Shane Watson held the chance.


Gambhir and Dhoni put the chase back on track with a stand of 64 runs in 13.3 overs and the frown on Pontingís forehead increased. The pair mixed caution with aggression to blunt the Australian bowlers operating in the middle overs forcing Ponting to turn to Lee and Johnson but to no avail. The pair accumulated the runs in singles and then when the required run-rate went up got the boundaries to keep abreast with the required run-rate. Gambhir got himself a half-century and it seemed that he along with Dhoni will help India across the line. With the mandatory ball change in the 34th over Dhoni decided to call in for the batting Powerplay. But the move boomeranged in spectacular fashion as Gambhir was trapped low before with a low full toss from Johnson. Raina was as expected peppered with short balls one of which he pulled over midwicket for a six. But his stay at the crease was ended when he spooned a simple catch back to Johnson and an Indian win was receding fast. The final nail on the coffin was nailed when Dhoni mistimed an on-drive straight to Lee at mid-on. Jadeja who was visibly uncomfortable during his short stay was trapped leg before by Hauritz and the Indian side sunk further.


Harbhajan Singh was joined in the middle by Praveen Kumar and the spectators slowly began leaving the ground. The two lower batsmen began their innings with some uncultured heaves across the line against the bowlers and it was expected that their stay at the crease would be short. Some heaves connected while some did not. The duo soon found the boundary ropes while some soared beyond the boundary ropes and slowly the runs flowed. Praveen Kumar started the proceedings by lofting Watson over long-off and Harbhajan joined the fun by collecting boundaries for himself. To make the matters worse for Australia substitute Marsh dropped Kumar off Hauritz at midwicket. Watson was the worst sufferer as Harbhajan and Kumar punished the medium pacer ruthlessly. Soon the required runs came down drastically as the two powered the Indian chase on. With every run collected the decibel among the crowd began to raise and along with it hope. The matters came to head when 42 runs were required off three overs. Siddle conceded 13 runs and then came the most expensive over of the match. Watson entrusted with bowling the 49th over conceded 20 runs to hand India the advantage. In the end, nine were required from the final over and Peter Siddle held his nerve to confirm a four-run margin in Australia's favour. The key moment came when Harbhajan (49) was bowled from the second ball of the 50th, trying to launch a boundary off Siddle. With six required off the last ball, Nehra could only play it quietly to long-off.


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