Monday, November 10, 2008

India trounce invincible Oz to nail series

The men in blue signed off a remarkable series by defeating reigning champions Australia by 172 runs in Nagpur on Monday to clinch the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2008.

Team India will remember this series for more reasons than just winning it, as the tournament saw two of its veteran greats retire. Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly leave a trail of besotted fans behind them as they bid goodbye to the world of Test cricket.

Excellent bowling came to the rescue of Sourav Ganguly, who was captaining the final Test and ensured that his last series was sealed with a win.

Set the daunting task of scoring an imposing 382 to win, Australia were tottering at 111 for three wickets at lunch on the fifth and final day.

The batsmen out in the visitors' second innings, after they had commenced at the overnight 13 for no loss, were first innings centurion Simon Katich (16), captain Ricky Ponting (8) and his deputy Michael Clarke (22), promoted up the order in quest for quick runs despite being unwell.

Ishant Sharma, India's most successful bowler of the four-Test rubber, was easily the pick of the attack on Monday morning and accounted for Katich and Clarke, while Ponting was run out through a brilliant piece of fielding and throwing by Amit Mishra.

The home team should have ended the session with more Australian wickets in their clutch but for a few dropped catches and a few edges that eluded the slip cordon.

Australia needed to make 271 more runs on a wearing track where the ball was spinning sharply with two left-handers - opener Matthew Hayden (46 off 67 balls with four fours) and Michael Hussey (14 off 20 balls) - at the crease.

India would have been placed in an even more happy position had they taken their catches.

Rahul Dravid, normally a superb fielder at slip, floored Ponting on zero off Zaheer and MS Dhoni let off Hayden when he tried to cut Harbhajan Singh when on 30.

The miss off Ponting did not prove costly as the visiting team skipper was run out soon afterwards, but Hayden who was dropped by Dravid later when he reverse-swept the Indian off-spinner five runs later remained unbeaten at lunch.

Katich, who made 102 in the first innings, once pulled Sharma from wide of the off stump for a boundary and fell while trying to repeat the same shot by top-edging the attempt. The ball ballooned high for Dhoni to take the swirling ball with some difficulty.

Ponting was lucky to edge Zaheer on arrival and survive with Dravid dropping the regulation catch, but tried to take on Mishra fielding at mid-off by attempting a cheeky single only to see the fielder attack the ball and run him out with a direct throw at the non-striker's end.

Australia, 29 for no loss, slid to 37 for two in nine balls.

Clarke, up the order but batting with Katich as his runner, should have been sent back by Sharma who rapped him on the pads with a late in-swerving ball, but umpire Billy Bowden did not uphold the strong appeal for leg before.

In between, Hayden was dropped by Dhoni and it looked as if things were going the Australian way when Sharma got his revenge by dismissing Clarke.

The gangling Delhi bowler, who bowled with a lot of pace in the first innings too in his long spells, got the visiting team's vice captain with a superb, out-swinger which was feathered by the batsman to 'keeper Dhoni.

Clarke and Hayden added 45 runs off only 54 balls before the dismissal.

Hayden then reverse-swept Harbhajan twice, the first one being a clean strike for four and off the second Dravid got his hand to the ball but could not latch on to it. Hayden and Hussey later piloted the visitors past 100 before the break.

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