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India hold nerve to record 172-run victory and clinch series 2-0

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni kept his cool to marshall his troops to a comprehensive 172-run victory in the fourth and final Test at Nagpur. India lifted the Border-Gavaskar Trophy by winning the series 2-0 to give a fitting tribute to its successful Captain Sourav Ganguly, who indeed left on a high. MS Dhoni showed good spirit by asking Ganguly to take over the captaincy when it was just about performing the last rites in the match. Ironically, Sourav made his Captaincy Debut exactly 8 years ago. Mahendra Singh Dhoni didn’t stop there as he asked Anil Kumble to share the Border-Gavaskar Trophy along with him. It was an exciting day of cricket and that was largely because of the Australian approach towards the game on the final day although all odds were against them. Australia decided to go hell for leather to try and chase the improbable target of 382. They certainly went down fighting as it was always going to be a daunting task to chase those many runs on a wearing final day wicket.

Morning Session: Oz shows intentions, but panic creeps in

It was so refreshing to watch the Australians decide to challenge the huge target. They wanted to give their 100% and didn’t worry about losing the match. A draw was certainly not their option as they wanted to go for a win only which was good for India. It was all about the bowlers holding nerve and the fielders being on their toes as an ordinary show from them could give away a lot of runs considering that the ground was a big one and full of gaps to exploit. Matthew Hayden and Simon Katich showed their intentions from ball no.1 itself with their attacking shots. Katich, who is not a naturally aggressive batsmen fell to the pressure and gifted his wicket way too early after miscuing one up in the air off Ishant Sharma. It was a great catch from Dhoni as the ball went high up in the air like the Chandrayaan but the man with the gloves kept his eyes on the ball all the way until it landed in his gloves. Katich would be proud of his strike rate though having scored 16 in 16 balls with 3 fours. India got to a perfect start with the breakthrough coming in the 6th over itself.

Katich’s fall made way for Ponting to join Hayden and this has been a formidable pair for Team India in all formats of the game. The luck certainly was going in favour of the hosts as Ponting went back to the pavilion in a hurry after staying in the middle for just the 7 minutes. Panic was written on Ponting’s face clearly as he ran himself out trying to steal a non-existing single towards mid off despite his momentum being on the backfoot. Amit Mishra kept his cool to pull off an under arm throw onto the non-striker’s end stumps. Ricky had scored two fours in the six balls that he had faced which included a streaky edge that could have been taken by a younger Dravid in the slips. Hayden at the other end showed his cool with his controlled strokeplay as the ball was not always coming onto the bat. His next partner Michael Clarke should have also disappeared in a flash to the pavilion having rapped up on the pad plumb infront to an unplayable indipper from Ishant. But a joking decision of Not Out from ‘Silly’ Bowden gave an undeserving life for Michael Clarke. It was even more shocking as yesterday; it was the same umpire who gave Murali Vijay lbw to a delivery that struck him infront of middle and leg from Watson. The question any sub-continent cricket follower would ask is why most of the Umpires in the world are more than ready to oblige whenever the Aussies appeal loudly? The same Umpires think that it is ‘Excessive Appealing’ if the same thing comes from the sub-continent players and tend to give Not Outs mostly! It was a shame to the game that the men in white coats are paid so heavily and yet they fail to do their basics of their job properly!

Ishant Sharma, who was the victim of the poor umpiring from Billy Bowden didn’t lose his heart though as he got Michael Clarke out for the second time in the same innings! While the first time, Clarke was supposed to be lbw, it was a delivery that nipped back off the seam and this time around, it was reverse swing that got his wicket. It was a near replay of his first innings dismissal to the same bowler with the subtle difference being that Clarke nicked it on the frontfoot this time. Ishant certainly has come off age in understanding his angles right when it comes to reverse swing. His thinking was simple that of angling the ball into the right hander and get it to move away just the fraction through the shiny side! Thanks to ‘Silly’ Bowden, Clarke prolonged his innings to a 50-minute stay in which he could score 22 from 30 balls with 3 fours. India even had to bear the brunt of letting a ‘Runner’ for Clarke in the form of Simon Katich with the reason being that Michael Clarke was ‘generally unwell’. India’s next big chance went down begging in the 19th over and yet again it was a non-confident Dravid at slip dropping a sharp overhead chance from a Hayden’s reverse sweep off Harbhajan. Australia still showed enough courage to keep up with run rate through the well set Hayden and the innovative Hussey and at lunch went at 111 for 3 in 23 overs. It was a dismal over rate from MS Dhoni as his team had bowled just the 21.3 overs in two-hour morning session!

Afternoon Sesison: The great Oz collapse engineered by the spinners

When the afternoon session started, Australia were in with a healthy chance of still making it as they got the target down to 271 from a possible 68 overs. Hayden seemed to have been giving a pep talk to Hussey while walking onto the battlefield after lunch. Dhoni decided to operate spin at both ends and make them bowl either outside the off stump in the rough or outside the legstump. Hayden and Hussey were determined to score the runs however possible and that brought out some courageous reverse sweeps to deliveries pitched outside the legstump. Meanwhile Billy Bowden was after Dhoni not to stand down the legside to the bowlers and other things although there is nothing in the Rules that states that the wicket keeper needs to stand only on one side of the stumps. In the 29th over, came the possible turning point of the match when Amit Mishra, perhaps inspired by Harbhajan Singh’s exploits in the Mohali Test decided to bowl the top spinner which would perfectly land on the seam and kick off. Mishra bowled it in the rough from round the stumps and Hussey, who had to play that, was forced to glove it to Dravid in the slip. Hussey returned back making 19 from 30, it was a potentially dangerous innings looking at the way he was giving the charge to Zaheer and taking him off the attack.

The final nail in the coffin came just four balls after Hussey’s dismissal when Hayden shuffled long way back and across to miss an armer from Harbhajan and get plumb infront. Hayden had smacked Bhajji’s long hop with disdain to the widish mid wicket boundary just the ball before. Hayden ended up with a superb 77 from just 93 balls with 8 fours and a whacking six off Sehwag. The big man scared the Indians like anything as long as he was there in the middle. It was a cakewalk after his departure for the Indian bowlers and Harbhajan Singh unleashed his full repertoire which also included the first use of the doosra! Amit Mishra enjoyed at the other end as well showing his guile as well and the Aussies got bundled out for 209 in 50.2 overs with Harbhajan taking 4 for 64 in 18.2 overs and Mishra with 3 for 27 from 11 overs.

Australia had lost their last six wickets for just 59 runs in over 20 overs and the match finished around the Tea time. The lower order collapse was first inflicted by Amit Mishra who had lured Haddin to come out the crease and hit him straight to mid on where Tendulkar took his 100th catch of his test career. Shane Watson, another capable hitter of the ball nicked one behind to Dhoni in an attempted cut off Harbhajan and later Krejza was stumped after playing across the line and against the leg break of Mishra. Brett Lee, the no. 10 was forced to glove a sharp turning and bouncing off break in his frontfoot defence to short leg and the last wicket came when Mitchell Johnson was given lbw after thinking that he was padding up to an off break but it turned out to be a doosra which would have knocked his off stump down. Harbhajan Singh was at his best cleaning up the tail. The Man of the Match was given to his counterpart Jason Krekjza for his wonderful debut of taking 12 wickets while the Toyota Corolla Car for the Man of the Series went to Ishant Sharma for being the leading wicket taker.