Australia have sealed the Future Cup 7-match series with an 18-run win in the 6th ODI at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur. Although India lost the match from a strong position to chase down a huge target of 318, only few people would complain as the match was a great spectacle of some stunning batting performances. India got to a good start but not to a really blazing start which made the task almost highly impossible for the likes of Dhoni and Uthappa towards the end. But still the two youngsters kept the faith in their abilities to give the Australians a huge scare. Uthappa in particular was simply sensational, it was another matter that a mistake or two cost the match.
Both sides made a change going into this match with the home team bringing back Sreesanth for RP Singh and Australia resting Hayden, who had sustained a hip injury. Hayden’s place went to Brad Haddin, however his opening slot was taken by Michael Clarke. Australia decided to bat first having won the toss on a track that was good for batting but with a bit of purchase for the spinners. Zaheer Khan was lucky to get a down the legside dismissal of Michael Clarke in the first over but that was the only wicket coming in for a while. A dropped catch at second slip from Rahul Dravid gifted Adam Gilchrist an early life. Heart broken because of that Sreesanth lost the plot to start spraying the ball on either side of the wicket at more than 145kmph. Ponting had a life too when he wasn’t given out lbw by Umpire Amish Saheba after getting dead in front to a late inswinger from Irfan Pathan. Those breaks were enough for Gilchrist and Ponting to smash the bowling apart making the Indian new ball attack look thin. India somehow managed to pull things back by removing these two dangerous batsmen with Harbhajan foxing Ponting (49 from 44 with 7 fours and a six) with a straighter one and Gilchrist (51 from 47 with 8 fours) smashing Pathan uppishly into the hands of covers. Australia found themselves at 102 for 3 in the 16th over with this.
There was enough encouragement for Harbhajan Singh from the pitch and therefore MS Dhoni brought in Murali Kartik to consolidate India’s position. Kartik did just that as he found the edge of Brad Hodge with some sharp turn from the middle stump area. With the ball turning, Australia appeared to be in trouble and when Symonds had got a top edge that was sailing into the hands of Sreesanth off the bowling of Harbhajan, it appeared to be India’s day. But then Sreesanth made a complete mess up of a simple catch to give a life to the most feared batsman in One Day Cricket. There was no looking back at all after this and deservingly so, India had to pay a heavy price for its sloppy fielding. Symonds had Haddin’s company and although the latter did struggle against the spin, the partnership was always taking Australia forward. Haddin was finally out in the 38th over trying to accelerate and by then he helped Symonds to add up 75 runs for the 5th wicket. Haddin contributed just 25 facing 53 but his stay in the middle was very important. His wicket was taken by Sreesanth. Symonds after that got another partnership, this time with James Hopes that was instrumental in putting up a huge total. Symonds missed out on a hundred thrice in this series but this time it wasn’t to be as he registered his sixth hundred. Hopes made a very good score of 39 from 30 with 5 fours to put on 90 runs in just under 10 overs. Symonds remained unconquered thanks to a last ball sacrifice from Mitchell Johsnon, who saved the centurion from getting run out. Symonds got 107 and all he took was just 88 balls with 9 hits to the fence and four effortless sixers. Murali Kartik was the only bowler to maintain economical figures conceding 37 runs in his 9 overs besides a maiden and a wicket.
After a very longtime, the old pair of Sachin and Sourav played the way they should and that meant that the Australian bowling attack was facing a serious challenge. Both batsmen gave a solid start as the total became smaller and smaller yet the two openers failed to keep the required run rate below 7.00 runs per over! They put on a massive 140 for the opening wicket in 25 overs with Tendulkar being the first one to fall, stumped brilliantly down the legside. In between they were some controversial decisions with a few legside wides not given at all by Amish Saheba. The one bonus for the Indians was that the third powerplay was held back by Ponting which was taken after the dismissal of Tendulkar. The little master did play his shots and never quite went into a shell to score 77 from 72 with 9 fours and a six. MS Dhoni made a surprise move by sending in Irfan Pathan as the pinch hitter. Pathan did his job alright but never did he set the stage on fire with his 29 from 29 that had 3 fours and two sixes. The required run rate was always climbing up for the Indians and in the 37th over, Sourav Ganguly, who was playing a sheet anchor’s role holed out to long off as he went for a big one off Brad Hogg. Ganguly’s innings was a good one, getting 86 with 7 fours and two sixes but he had also consumed 111 balls for the same. The next big blow for the home team came when Yuvraj missed out sweeping a full toss from Hogg to be lbw. After a while, Rahul Dravid, who is not a match winner when the big hitting is required gave away to give room for Robin Uthappa to take over. All this while, it was Brad Hogg cleverly mixing it up to end with brilliant figures of 4 for 49 in 10 overs.
India batted themselves out of the match with 100 runs to win from just 57 balls against the World Champions with just the last recognized batting pair left. Although Dhoni had some time to get his eye in, Uthappa’s case was different, he had to go for it right from the word ‘go’. And Uthappa did just that with his improvisation and clean hitting that got the target down to a realistic one. The task still looked difficult with 73 to win from 36 but a flurry of boundaries and sixes from Uthappa put the pressure back on the Aussies. In the 47th over, he attempted a scoop shot off Mitchell Johnson which went straight into the hands of Lee at short fine leg but then was dropped shockingly! Soon the equation was 28 from the last two overs with Mitchell Johnson bowling the most important over of the match that could tilt the match either way. Mitchell Johnson decided to be the hero as he got Uthappa miscuing one up in the air to be caught off the first ball of the over. It was a stunner from Uthappa as he got 44 from just 28 with 5 fours and two sixes in an unbelievably difficult situation. After a couple of balls, Johnson sealed the match with Dhoni trying for a desperate lofted shot which was brilliantly held by his Australian Counterpart. It was simply tough for the Indian Captain after Uthappa’s dismissal as he had to do all the scoring on his own being the only genuine batsman. Dhoni made 26 from 29 with 2 fours and a six. India finished at 299 for 7 to fall short by 18 runs. The Man of the Match was obviously going to be Andrew Symonds, who may well be the Man of the Series as well. Symonds not only hit that hundred but also was a major influence with the ball conceding only 39 runs in his 10 overs.