India break Aussie stranglehold with 4-wkt win

Adelaide: Mahendra Singh Dhoni produced a gigantic six in the last over as India broke Australia`s stranglehold by snatching a nail-biting four-wicket victory over the hosts in the cricket tri-series here on Sunday. After restricting Australia to 269 for eight built largely around David Hussey`s 72, the visitors overcame some jitters before overhauling the target with just two balls to spare in a dramatic last over to record their second successive win in the tournament.

Gautam Gambhir (92) led the way with an assured knock at the top of the order and the finish was provided by the reliable duo of Suresh Raina (38 off 30 balls) and Dhoni (44 not out) as the visitors chased down the record target of 270. The Indians needed 13 runs from the last over and Dhoni hit a huge six — 112m — from the third ball off Clint McKay to swing the game in India`s favour. The subsequent ball turned out to be a no-ball and that made the task easier for the Indians.

This is the highest-ever chase India have managed against any side in Australia. Their previous best was 263 against New Zealand in Brisbane in 1986. India`s best chase against Australia was 242 for four in Sydney in 2008. It still was a touch and go when Raina departed in the 47th over and the equation was down to 27 runs from the final three overs. Some brisk running brought it down to 17 from the final two overs.

Xavier Doherty bowled the penultimate over and gave only four runs, claiming Ravindra Jadeja (12) to a catch in the deep. It was now down to 13 from the final over. The Indian skipper, who batted slowly but assuredly, remained unbeaten on 44 of 58 balls with a solitary six.

Earlier, Gambhir played his most assured knock of the summer. The left-hander was in control all through till he was adjudged leg before wicket to McKay which was a marginal call at best. Gambhir began with a few silken off-drives off Mitchell Starc before settling down and playing the sheet anchor role to perfection. He forged important stands all through his stay in the middle. To begin with, there was that rare half century opening stand with Virender Sehwag (20) and 38 for the second wicket with Virat Kohli (18) which promised more than it delivered.

The Delhi opener then really got into a groove with Rohit Sharma for the third wicket and the 76-run stand came off only 85 balls. India, at 166 for 2 in 33rd over, were firmly in control. But then, the innings inevitably stuttered. Rohit (33) who had hit a belligerent six off the front foot off Starc foolishly lifted a stroke to mid-off. Rohit made his runs off 41 balls with a four and a six. The biggest blow to India came in the 35th over, the over before the batting powerplay began. Gambhir aimed to clip McKay to onside and was wrapped on the pads. Umpire Nigel Llong ruled him out off a delivery which TV replays showed had marginally pitched outside the leg stump.

Gambhir batted for 111 balls for his 92 runs and struck seven fours. India were 178 for 4 in the 35th over when he was out. The five overs of batting powerplay yielded 28 runs as Suresh Raina and Dhoni looked to grow roots at the crease. India needed 73 runs from the final 10 overs. Raina changed gears in the 42nd over when he lofted Xavier Doherty over midwicket for a six. At the start of the 45th over, India needed 48 runs.

Sehwag (20) showed good touch with two off-side fours against Ryan Harris but as so often has happened on this tour, he closed the face of his bat too early to lob a catch off the back of his blade into the hands of the point fielder. Kohli (18) took some time to get the score moving but he was generally in control before he lashed out at McKay and holed out to sweeper-cover fielder Peter Forrest in the 19th over. Earlier, Australia rode on young debutant Peter Forrest`s shoulders to raise 269 for eight in their allotted 50 overs.

Forrest (66) and Hussey (72) combined brilliantly to put on 98 runs for the fourth wicket after the hosts had lost their footing at one stage to be 81 for three. Dan Christian (39) provided a good hand towards the close but Australia could not quite make the best use of final 10 overs, adding only 57 runs to the total. India was well served by its medium-pacers with Zaheer Khan (1 for 46), Umesh Yadav (2 for 49) and Vinay Kumar (2 for 58) picking wickets at critical intervals.