Sachin Tendulkar’s maiden ODI hundred in Australia along with great support from fellow Mumbaiker – Rohit Sharma clinched the first final of the CB Series for India. The little master silenced his critics who have been questioning his temperament to perform in the crunch matches and also about his abilities to see his side through to victory right till the end. Tendulkar with Rohit Sharma ensured that their team didn’t waste the good bowling show early on when the Aussies were restricted down to 239 on a good batting track.
India made some daring yet welcome changes to its line-up. The welcome change was the inclusion of rookie leg spinner – Piyush Chawla, who would be a perfect surprise weapon to unleash. The daring change was that they settled with just Ishant Sharma as the lone quick along with the medium pacers – Praveen Kumar and Irfan Pathan. Dhoni threw the new ball straightaway to Praveen Kumar which might have sent a lot of jitters among the Indian fans. Fortunately enough the gamble worked out with Praveen Kumar providing an exit to the dangerous Adam Gilchrist, who got out miscuing a pull shot in the 3rd over. In his next over, Praveen got another big fish – Ricky Ponting, who had played onto his stumps attempting a pull shot. India then got lucky with a caught behind decision when an Ishant Sharma’s delivery had brushed only the pad before getting into the gloves of Dhoni. The inform Michael Clarke was the unlucky batsman and Australia found themselves in a shaky position at 24 for 3.
Fortunately for Australia, the experience of Matt Hayden and Andrew Symonds came in handy. The monstrous pair batted the Aussies out of trouble with their natural game. India had to get rid of this partnership as quickly as possible. They didn’t have to work too hard for it as Symonds stepped out to loft Harbhajan out in the crowd but could only find the man at deep mid wicket. Symonds’ stay was cut short to a knock of 31 (from 44 balls with 4 fours) and the Aussies were back in trouble at 124 for 4 in the 24th over. They were in further trouble when Matthew Hayden’s powerful sweep off Bhajji was held beautifully by Piyush Chawla at squareleg. Hayden missed out on an easy hundred with that, he had got 82 in just 88 with 10 hits to the ropes. After Haydos’ fall, the home side had no option but to go defensive as they had to preserve their wickets till the end. The rest of the innings revolved around Michael Hussey (45 from 67 with 2 fours) with the left hander forming valuable partnerships with Hopes (15) and Brad Hogg (23). The Aussies finished at 239 for 8 thanks to Brett Lee’s cameo of 17 from 10 with 3 fours.
India could have restricted Australia for a slightly lower total but the problem was that Ishant Sharma couldn’t return back to finish his remaining two overs because of a finger injury on his bowling hand. Yet, the other bowlers did a fine job with the exception of a struggling Irfan Pathan (hit for 63 in his 7). Praveen had 2 for 49, Harbhajan 2 for 38 and Piyush 0 for 33 in their respective 10 overs. The batting strategy for the Men in Blue was to see that Brett Lee didn’t get any wicket with the new ball. Robin Uthappa and Sachin Tendulkar were cautious about this and were successful in their task. Both openers gave a perfect opening by putting on 50 on the board. The Australian bowlers failed to bowl the wicket taking deliveries but their fielders brought them back in the game to have India at 56 for 2 in the 13th over. First Uthappa’s full blooded pull shot off Hopes was brilliantly caught by a forward diving Michael Hussey in the deep. Uthappa had made 17 from 33 in his opening stand with Sachin. Gambhir was unlucky to be run out because of Tendulkar’s bad judgment of a non existent second run. The inform Gambhir sacrificed his wicket for Tendulkar after the latter just ran towards the striker’s end without looking at what his partner was trying to say.
Tendulkar now had the double responsibility of also getting the runs that Gambhir would have got. The little master was left disappointed at the non striker’s end as Yuvraj Singh got cleaned up by a Hogg flipper. India slipped to 87 for 3 in the 19th over in the next 10 overs would have lost the match for them. However, there was no scope of a traditional batting collapse with the veteran of more than 400 ODIs inspiring the 20-year-old Rohit Sharma to play a match winning innings for his country. Rohit Sharma began his innings with two gorgeous straight drives off Nathan Bracken which would have made the little master proud of. Both the right handers batted sensibly with some good running and in between playing some delightful shots to keep the scoreboard busy. As the partnership grew, India gained control of the match and at the start of the 40th over, it looked to be an easy victory.
Tendulkar got his maiden ODI hundred on Australian soil in just 106 balls. His partner, Rohit Sharma (66 from 87 with 6 fours) eventually fell in the 42nd over to an inswinger from Hopes but not before taking India to 210 for 4. The Indians clinched victory through the pair of Tendulkar (117* from 120 with 10 fours) and Skipper MS Dhoni (15 from 12), who finished the match with a boundary with 25 balls to spare.
Brett Lee remained wicketless and Mitchell Johnson leaked 70 in his 10 which had lost the match for Ponting with the ball. They were two notable incidents in the match – one being the invasion by a streaker and the other a beamer from Lee to Tendulkar. The Man of the Match for this first final was obviously Sachin Tendulkar. The pressure is completely on Australia as they have to win the second final which is at the Gabba on the 4th. India can finish their long tour by winning the Gabba match as the 3rd final is to be played only if required.