India slipped to an embarrassing defeat in the fifth ODI at Vadodara by a dismissive margin of nine wickets after getting bowled out for a low total. On what was termed as a batting beauty by South African legend Barry Richards, India did the right thing in choosing to bat first but then collapsed in a heap. The talk about the pitch was that 300 was only a minimum but it was something else that happened for the crowd at Vadodara.
Sourav Ganguly started off the bad day for the homeside with a misjudged single toward short mid wicket which cost him his wicket in the very first over. In the next ball, an out of sorts Rahul Dravid went onto the backfoot instead of coming onto the frontfoot to be dead infront of the sticks to a Brett Lee’s inswinger. India rocked back by those two early wickets never could recover with Mitchell Johnson bowling a dream spell. He got the ball to swing both ways which accounted for the wicket of Yuvraj Singh, caught off the inside edge, Robin Uthappa given out lbw to sharp incoming delivery and then the Indian Captain MS Dhoni gloving one down the legside. Those three wickets from Johnson broke the hearts of the fans as India got reduced to 43 for 5.
With the match in the dumps for the Indians, the responsibility for Sachin Tendulkar and local lad Irfan Pathan was to work towards getting their side to a respectable total. Both batsmen batted extremely cautiously although Sachin did enjoy the good batting track and the quick outfield with a few cover drives. Australia in a way were generous in not bowling their best bowlers which allowed a partnership to build. Finally Ricky Ponting thought enough was enough as he brought back Brett Lee for the kill. With a late outswinger, Brett Lee plotted the downfall of Tendulkar, who was dismissed for 47 which had come in 73 balls with 9 fours. It was a memorable day for Tendulkar till the match started as he got felicitated for playing his 400th ODI. The partnership with Pathan for Tendulkar was worth 49 runs that lasted till the 26th over. The Aussies didn’t waste much time after that Hogg removing Harbhajan teasing him to play a big shot and then Mitchell Johnson coming back to take two wickets that gave him his first fifer in ODIs. India were now at 107 for 9 in the 30th over but went onto make 148 with the innings getting over in 39.4 overs. The last wicket pair of Zaheer Khan and RP Singh really didn’t have any trouble against the bowling. Zaheer got himself 28 facing 44 balls with the help of two sixes off Hogg. RP Singh batted out 27 deliveries with ease. For Johnson, it was a career best of 5 for 26 in 10 overs.
When the Australia chase began after the lunch break, MS Dhoni brought in a surprise element in the form of Harbhajan Singh to bowl the first over! The Turbanator got plenty of turn off the track to keep Hayden and Gilchrist quiet. Hayden picked up a groin strain while taking a second run which aggravated when he had lunged forward for a sweep shot. He had to get a runner in James Hopes to continue his innings. Although Zaheer Khan was hit for 23 in his 3 overs, the Australians were dominated by Harbhajan Singh as the runs came in very slowly. Soon it was spin at both ends with Murali Kartik being introduced. After a spell of six overs, Harbhajan was rested to be replaced with RP Singh who finally provided the much needed breakthrough to avoid a 10-wicket defeat for his side. A struggling Matt Hayden couldn’t get his weight forward to get an inside edge onto the stumps. Hayden made 29 with 4 fours putting on 54 for the first wicket. After Hayden’s dismissal, Gilchrist started to free his arms to send Murali Kartik out of the ground for three sixes in an over. The Aussies after that never looked back to get to the victory in in 25.5 overs.
Harbhajan couldn’t get any wicket on a turning track and the same was the case with the other two spinners – Murali Kartik and Sachin Tendulkar. Gilchrist helped himself to 79 from 77 with 7 fours and 4 sixes and Ricky Ponting played a fluent innings of 39 from 39 with 5 fours. There was a crowd problem towards the end with bottled being thrown onto the outfield. The Police got the situation under control to get the match to conclude. There was going to be only one choice for the Man of the Match award and that went to Mitchell Johnson.