A superb bowling performance from Doug Bollinger backed up with terrific fielding helped Australia defend a moderate target of 250 under lights at Mohali. Indian batting failed completely with the reliable pair of Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni not delivering for once. Australia did extremely well to keep taking wickets at regular intervals to secure the game in their favour and level the series 2-2 with a 24-run victory.
The homeside got off to a blistering start from Virender Sehwag and he literally smashed birthday boy Mitchell Johnson out of the attack. Sehwag though yet again failed to cash on to stay longer at the crease. For the second time in the series, he holed out to mid off when there was no need of a big shot. It was a cameo of 30 from 19 balls with 7 fours from Sehwag which got India to 40 for 1 in the 7th over. His opening partner Tendulkar after that took most of the strike and was playing himself in and taking quite a lot of time. He looked good for the long haul though. At the other end, Sachin lost another partner in Virat Kohli who too was dismissed by the left armer Bollinger. Kohli edged a cut shot to the keeper to make it 78 for 2 in the 15th over. Infact Bollinger came to the rescue for Ponting as it was his spell that calmed the situation from a Sehwag destruction.
In the 19th over, a well set Tendulkar shuffled across and missed a full length arm ball from Nathan Hauritz to get lbw. It was a touch and go decision from the Sri Lankan Umpire Asoka de Silva which sent back Sachin Tendulkar (40 from 68 balls with 6 fours). It’s still debatable whether Sachin’s knock had taken India forward or derailed the momemtum and create the pressure on the middle order. The Master Blaster took a lot of care in his batting and never tried to go over the top and dominate the bowling. At 94 for 3, it was again crisis time for the pair of Yuvraj and MS Dhoni. It was just too much to ask them to not only do the repair work but also see India through.
A bad judgement of a single from MS Dhoni in the 24th over put an early end to Yuvraj’s show with Ricky Ponting’s direct throw proving too good for the left hander. Yuvraj departed after a 21-ball 12 leaving India at 113 for 4. The hosts crawled after that and the final blow of their hopes was given in the 32nd over when MS Dhoni (26 from 46 balls) gloved a rising delivery from Bollinger to the keeper down the legside. At 145 for 4, it was the perfect test for the two young left handers – Raina and Jadeja to prove that they can win the match from here. But both disappointingly threw away the challenge. First Raina got outsmarted by Hauritz and later Jadeja ran himself out under pressure.
The match certainly was in Australia’s bag but they still had the pair of Harbhajan and Praveen Kumar to content with. Harbhajan provided the much need fightback for the Indians with a series of five boundaries and a six to take them past 200. In the 43rd over, Harbhajan’s dream cameo came to an end thanks to a superb reflex catch from Watson off his own bowling. The Turbanator got out scoring 31 from 25 balls. Praveen Kumar was on his own now with 47 to get from 47 balls. He smacked a couple of superb boundaries at this stage, but in the end was forced to make a mistake off Watson just on time for the Aussies. India were soon bowled out for 226 in the 47th over.
All the six bowlers used by Ponting bowled well with the exception of Johnson who was clobbered for 74 runs in his 9 overs. Doug Bollinger was outstanding for his 3 for 38 ane Watson came up with 3 for 29. Both bowlers had surprisingly got the ball to reverse swing a lot. Although there was dew around, it wasn’t that heavy perhaps because of the measures taken by the groundstaff. For Nathan Hauritz, it was another proud day taking the crucial wickets of Tendulkar and Raina and he certainly has scored over his counterpart Harbhajan Singh! The player of the Match went to Watson for his all-round efforts which included two super catches.