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India keep final hopes alive
Deepti Patwardhan | September 20, 2006 14:39 IST
Last Updated: September 20, 2006 22:11 IST
India's bowlers breathed life into the team's campaign in Kuala Lumpur as they pulled off an improbable 16-run victory over the West Indies in the fifth ODI of the DLF Cup tri-series on Wednesday.
The West Indies, having already qualified for the final, paid for complacency as they were bowled out for 146 runs in 41 overs while chasing a modest 162 runs.
Harbhajan Singh's all-round performance proved crucial. The off-spinner gave a dazzling display of his talent with the ball and also proved a stoic batsman in the company of Sachin Tendulkar. He scored 37 runs before returning with bowling figures of 3 for 35 and was adjudged man of the match.
Munaf Patel, S Sreesanth and Ajit Agarkar took two wickets each as the West Indies collapsed without much resistance.
Earlier, electing to bat first, India were in all sorts of trouble at 78 for 6 following a devastating opening spell from Dwayne Smith.
Smith dismissed Rahul Dravid in the first over and then picked the wickets of Virender Sehwag (1), Suresh Raina (11) and Yuvraj Singh (0) to leave India paralysed.
Sachin Tendulkar waged a lone battle, scoring a patient 65 from 102 balls, inclusive of seven boundaries. The one and only substantial partnership came rather late in the day, with Tendulkar and Harbhajan (37) notching 78 runs for the seventh wicket.
If it was Tendulkar for India, Brian Lara almost did it for the West Indies. Coming in at number nine, he retained all the arrogance while sauntering to a 48-ball 40 that contained six fours.
India's quest for self-preservation in the tri-series got off to the worst possible start as they lost captain Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag in quick succession.
Part-time bowler Smith, who was made to open the bowling in the absence of Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards, dismissed Dravid with the third ball of the innings. Pitching on the off-stump, the ball slightly moved away from the batsman and kissed the gloves on its way to wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh.
In the third over of the innings, Smith had the out-of-form Sehwag chopping the ball onto his stumps.
Tendulkar struggled to read Corey Collymore and Smith kept the Indian batsmen guessing with the bounce. Though Tendulkar conjured up some flowing drives on the leg-side, the Indian ace looked largely tentative; the uneasiness exaggerated due to the uneven bounce of the wicket.
Raina was the next man out, poking at a Smith delivery, caught at first slip for 11.
Yuvraj Singh, who had hit a purple patch -- collecting man-of-the-series trophies in three consecutive series against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and England -- followed suit, as he was caught behind also off Smith without scoring.
With Dravid pushed into the opening slot, India now lacked solidity in the middle-order as they limped to 38 for 4 in 10.2 overs.
Tendulkar had hit back to form in the first match against Australia with a classy century, his 40th, and it was again down to the little master to rescue India. With him was Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who came out twirling the bat from one hand to another. He plays in only one gear -- the fifth. Applying what he knows best, he tried to blast his way from the situation, delighting the sparse crowd with his exuberance. Four hits to the fence, some flashy shots and the Dhoni show was over in a flourish.
After punishing a short and wide ball from Collymore through cover, Dhoni was out, missing a straight ball while going for a wild swing.
India could have been in further trouble had the umpires upheld Collymore's appeal against Tendulkar and Dwayne Bravo's against Ajit Agarkar for leg before wicket. Both were close calls; Tendulkar hinting that he had got some bat on that while his Mumbai mate was saved by the height for the time being.
It was a confirmed nightmare when Agarkar came out to bat in the 16th over of the innings! Worse, Agarkar, going back in the 20th, was bowled off a slower ball from Bravo.
Harbhajan brought up India's 100 in the 24th over with a six, straight over the bowler's head, off Wavell Hinds. The 25-year-old, known more as a slogger, showed better aptitude than the players preceding him while tackling the West Indian bowlers. For one, he played the ball on merit and rotated the strike with Tendulkar, who had largely disappeared from the picture during the batting fiasco.
Solid support from Harbhajan and a half-century partnership under the belt saw Tendulkar enter the zone where he looks virtually unbeatable; caution giving way to flair as he manufactures runs off perfectly good balls, employs the pre-attempted cute sweep shots and caresses the gaps.
India had recovered from 78-6 to 156-6, when Harbhajan fell to Chris Gayle, for 37.
Tendulkar was unfortunately run-out for 65, when an R P Singh strike ricocheted off the bowler's (Marlon Samuels) hands onto the stumps, bringing an end to India's hopes of a competitive score.
Singh was bowled by Gayle and S Sreesanth run-out while attempting a second run, as India folded for 162.
West Indies innings:
The first nine overs, squeezed in before the lunch break, were largely uneventful. Runako Morton and Shivnarine Chanderpaul negotiated the tricky period and toothless Indian bowling without much fuss before going in for the break at 34 for no loss.
Munaf Patel and Sreesanth kept a check on things with tight line and length. The West Indies were hoping to cruise through the smallish target without having to force the issue, but the two Indian pacers made it as difficult as possible.
The West Indies shuffled the batting order to give the fringe players opportunity. Chris Gayle and Brian Lara were dropped down the line-up; result: the top-order cracked open at the slightest hint of pressure.
Munaf Patel drew first blood for India when he had Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan in the space of two overs. Chanderpaul's attempted pull ballooned in the air before dropping into the hands of a waiting Sehwag, while Sarwan nicked the ball to the wicketkeeper.
Those two wickets set the ball rolling, and Sreesanth, Agarkar and R P Singh chipped in to give India a serious chance in the match.
Sreesanth was rewarded for his diligence as he had Morton caught behind flashing at an away-going delivery for 27. The ball came off the hands of Rahul Dravid, at first slip, before being safely pocketed by Dhoni.
Ajit Agarkar had Marlon Samuels trapped leg before wicket while R P Singh claimed the wicket of Gayle.
Coming in at number six and facing charged-up Indian bowlers, Gayle found it difficult to find his rhythm. The tall left-hander was glued to his crease when an R P Singh delivery caught him plumb in front of the stumps.
Smith, who started off by hitting three consecutive boundaries off R P Singh was the next to go, adjudged leg before wicket. Agarkar got the ball to jam into the batsman and Smith got an edge onto the pads, but umpire Mark Benson ruled in favour of the bowler.
Agarkar used the old ball intelligently and got it to leave the left-handed Hinds, who survived a few anxious moments.
Dwayne Bravo frittered away the `life' given to him by Patel, as he was out stumped off Harbhajan Singh. The Indian off-spinner, who has been tidy throughout the tournament, drew Bravo out for a drive. Not only did the batsman miss the ball, he also did not care to slide his foot back inside the crease. Off the previous ball only his attempted lofted drive was let slip by a lazy Munaf effort at mid-off.
Harbhajan bowled to a packed close-in cordon and brought in all the variation to have the West Indians in a tangle. It was only the class of Brian Lara that enabled him to thwart Harbhajan's cunning, still pick the gaps and the boundaries.
After labouring to eight runs off 57 balls, Hinds finally caved into the pressure created by Harbhajan. He offered Harbhajan a leading edge and walked out tamely.
Baugh defied the Indian bowling as long as he could but was snapped up by Harbhajan. He played only 12 balls and made nine runs, but, more importantly, was involved in a 27-run partnership with Lara.
Lara's sole act came down to nothing in the end. The West Indies skipper rushed to a risky single off the fifth ball from Sreesanth to take strike for the next over. Collymore, running in from the non-striker's end, had given up the chase as Sreesanth darted down the wicket and aimed at the stumps. Sreesanth missed the stumps but struck with the next ball, claiming Collymore lbw.
The West Indies, chasing 162, were bowled out for 146 in 41 overs.
Defending a modest target, the Indian bowlers came up with a spirited team effort to post an incredible win and keep their chances alive in the series.