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India asserts dominance in the Twenty20 version

S. Dinakar

Posts emphatic seven-wicket win over Australia

Mumbai: The final stroke was as emphatic as the victory; skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni swinging Brett Lee over the fine-leg ropes. The World Champion outplayed Australia by seven wickets to win the one-off Twenty20 contest here on Saturday night at the Brabourne Stadium.

With spinners Harbhajan Singh and Murali Kartik excelling, India restricted Australia to an inadequate 166 for five. Then Gautam Gambhir took centrestage with a high-octane effort.

Up and running

The man who missed the action over the past two weeks with a strained groin was up and running even as the Aussies ran out of ideas.

Gambhir (63, 52b, 6x4, 1x6) scored with cuts and pulls after Virender Sehwag nicked a Lee away swinger.

The left-hander also unleashed some roaring straight hits before miscuing a pull off paceman Ben Hilfenhaus.

Earlier, Australian captain Ricky Ponting’s footwork, balance and timing were evident during his enthralling 76 (53b, 13x4). A mix-up with Andrew Symonds at a critical juncture — Symonds had set off for a non-existent run — dented Australia’s chances after it had elected to bat.

Spinning a web

Australia was pegged back by the spinners and the steady Irfan Pathan. Kartik spun the ball away from the right-hander, sent down the arm ball.

Harbhajan settled on to bowl a fullish length and mixed his pace. Adam Gilchirst started like a runaway train before left-arm paceman Rudra Pratap Singh uprooted his middle stump with a yorker.

Mathew Hayden promised before perishing and Brad Hodge disappointed again. Michael Clarke scintillated but ran out of balls.

Erratic Clark

Yuvraj Singh’s two sixes over fine-leg off an erratic Stuart Clark in the 17th over meant there was going to be only one verdict.

With the first ball of the 19th over, Dhoni ended the contest. The team then lapped the ground on the car won by Player of the Match Gambhir.

It was also a night when a section of the crowd behaved in a boorish manner.

Andrew Symonds was booed when he walked in to bat, when he departed, when he came in to bowl, whenever he threw the ball.

The Aussies blundered by omitting left-arm Chinaman bowler Brad Hogg on a pitch that offered spin.

Ponting was forced to introduce Clarke’s occasional left-arm spin from the press box end.

Clarke extracted turn and bounce and even had Robin Uthappa nicking to ’keeper Gilchirst.

But then the left-armer ran into the left-handed duo of Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh.

Uthappa was given a wake-up call at night — he just managed to keep a Lee lifter from crashing into his helmet — before settling down to carve some scintillating strokes.

India crossed 100 in just 10 overs. India could only win from here.

SCOREBOARD

Australia: A. Gilchrist b R.P. Singh 12, M. Hayden b Harbhajan 17, R. Ponting b Pathan 76, A. Symonds (run out) 20, B. Hodge b Pathan 2, M. Clarke (not out) 25, B. Haddin (not out) 5, Extras (lb-2, w-7): 9; Total (for five wkts. in 20 overs) 166.

Fall of wickets: 1-12 (Gilchrist),2-60 (Hayden), 3-110 (Symonds), 4-116 (Hodge), 5-158 (Ponting).

India bowling: R.P. Singh 4-0-39-1, Sreesanth 4-0-47-0, Irfan Pathan 4-0-34-2, Harbhajan 4-0-17-1, Murali Kartik 4-0-27-0.

India: G. Gambhir c Ponting b Hilfenhaus 63, V. Sehwag c Gilchrist b Lee 5, R. Uthappa c Gilchrist b M. Clarke 35, Yuvraj (not out) 31, M. Dhoni (not out) 9, Extras (lb-12, w-9, nb-3): 24; Total (for three wkts. in 18.1 overs): 167.

Fall of wickets: 1-20 (Sehwag), 2-102 (Uthappa), 3-143 (Gambhir).

Australia bowling: Brett Lee 3.1-0-35-1, N. Bracken 2-0-19-0, Hilfenhaus 4-0-28-1, S. Clarke 4-0-33-0, A. Symonds 3-0-26-0, M. Clarke 2-0-14-1.

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