Asia XI have made it a 3-0 whitewash at Chennai winning the last ODI by 13 runs. It was once again an exhilarating display of power batting from both the sides with more than 600 runs on the board. The crowd couldn’t have asked for more as 22 sixes rained in the match. Asia’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Africa’s Skipper Justin Kemp were the heroes of the day.
For the crowd to get such an exciting game, the credit will go to Mahela Jayawardene and Mahendra Singh Dhoni totally. Had they not put on their great partnership of 218 in energy sapping conditions, it could have been an early night off with an easy target to knock off. Sourav Ganguly and Dilhara Fernando sat out of this match. A hat-trick was achieved by Mahela this afternoon as he won the toss yet again and made the best use of the conditions by batting first. The mat maiden over from Peter Ongondo to Jayasuriya was followed with a spectacular diving catch from Kemp in the slips to see the back of Sehwag off Morkel’s bowling. Ongondo swung the ball around and was rewarded with the next three wickets to fall. One of them was a brilliant catch at point by AB de Villiers. Jayasuriya had a third consecutive failure. Asia XI were tottering at 51 for 4 in the 12th over.
Yuvraj Singh with his 31 was looking good but he perished playing onto his stumps to make it 72 for 5. The chips were down but the pair of Mahela Jayawardene and no.7 Dhoni never took it easy despite the conditions being very humid. Both the batsmen kept their heads down to carry their partnership forward. Most of the scoring was done by Mahela with a slightly unwell Dhoni biding his time. Initially during this partnership, a score of 230 was expected but once a platform was laid it was just about to be another high scoring one.
The pitch today wasn’t as same as yesterday’s with the ball just holding onto the surface. But once the pair of Mahela and Dhoni got used to the pace, it was boundaries and sixes coming at will for the Asians. Mahela Jayawardene went past a hundred, his 10th one which had come during a crisis. He was happy to be dismissed in the 47th over as he had sweated it out to take his team to 290 for 6 and also because he had got 107 from 106 balls with 9 fours and 2 sixes. Dhoni carried on right till the end remaining unbeaten on 139 taking only 97 balls with the help of 15 fours and 5 sixes. He got his fifty in 56 balls but his last 89 runs had come in just 41 balls! Asia XI plundered 331 for 8. A helpless Kemp had to use as many as 8 bowlers! The opening bowlers were very impressive though with Morne Morkel getting 3 for 50 and Zimbabwean Peter Ongondo 3 for 35 in their respective 10 overs.
For the first time in the series, the talented AB de Villiers got amongst the runs. And he got them in style smashing 70 from 63 with 7 fours and three sixes. The other opener Vusimuzi Sibanda helped him to put up 117 for the opening wicket. But Rafique had pegged the Africans back with the wickets of De Villiers and the inform Dippenaar in the 19th over. Rafique removed Sibanda in the 23rd over which was followed with Harbhajan getting Tikolo and Boucher stumped out beating them with his doosras. Africa went into a losing position at 159 for 5 in the 32nd over. Like De Villiers, Justin Kemp also reserved his best for the final game. The tall right hander kept the fight going with the dependable Shaun Pollock and once the 40 overs were bowled, the Africans were starting to put the pressure back on the Asians. Sixes came at will from Kemp’s bat with even the big Chidambaram Stadium looking like a small park.
Rafique finally gave the big breakthrough yorking Kemp in the 46th over to end a dangerous knock of 86 from 76 that had as many as 7 sixes. It was a tall order for Shaun Pollock towards the end to get the remaining runs with the spinners bowling them right in the blockhole. Africa went down fighting ending at 318 for 7. Shaun Pollock helped himself to 58 from 49 with 3 fours and 2 sixes. All the wickets that fell in this innings were taken by both Rafique (10-0-65-4) and Harbhajan Singh (10-0-48-3). The Asians were led by Virender Sehwag on the field with Jayawardene struggling to make it after working hard for his hundred. Mahela Jayawardene was the Man of the Series while MS Dhoni got the Man of the Match.