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Monday, 10 November 2008

India lift Border-Gavaskar Trophy as Aussies bite dust again

Nagpur (PTI): India on Monday gave ample proof of its status as a dominant force in world cricket as they thrashed Australia by 172 runs in the fourth and final cricket Test to regain the coveted Border-Gavaskar trophy after a gap of four years here.

After settting the visitors a daunting target of 382 for victory, the Indians exploited a turning fifth day track to skittle out the Aussies for 209 just before the tea break to wrap up the four-match series with a 2-0 margin. It turned out to be a perfect gift for Sourav Ganguly by his teammates in his farewell Test as they knocked out the Aussies in just about two sessions of play on the last day.

Only Matthew Hayden stood bravely amidst the ruins with a 93-ball 77 as the Indian bowlers ripped through the batting line-up to bring an end to the Australian innings rather quickly. Leg spinner Amit Mishra (4/64) and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh (3/27) were the main destructors for the hosts who made amends for losing the home series 1-2 in the 2004-05 series.

Opener Hayden, let off twice in his 30s, showed the most defiance from the tourists' ranks and top-scored with 77 off 93 balls with eight fours and a six before being fifth out and the end came swiftly after the departure of the Queenslander midway into the second session.

Fast bowler Ishant Sharma took the first two of three Australian wickets to set India on their way to a deserving victory after, which the spin duo of Harbhajan and Mishra spun a web of deceit to skittle the rest. The end came when last man Mitchell was declared out leg before offering no shot to Harbhajan Singh before tea.

Australia lost their wickets at regular intervals after a fighting partnership between Hayden and Hussey was broken by young Mishra who had the latter caught at slip by Rahul Dravid who had a forgettable match with the bat and as a slip fielder too.

India, thus, finished on a victorious note to give a fitting send-off to Sourav Ganguly who had announced before the commencement of the series in Bangalore on October 9 that he will quit the game after this series.

The former India skipper, who missed the chance to score a century in his farewell appearance after having started his Test career with a bang a debut ton at Lord's in 1996 faded from the limelight with the happiness that he was part of a victorious team at the end.

He was chaired off the ground after being hugged by all his teammates and the Australian players and was also greeted by retired captain Anil Kumble who has returned here from Bangalore to see the finale.

The opening Test was drawn before India thumped the world's highest-ranked team by a huge 320 runs in the second Test at Mohali to take a 1-0 lead, which they maintained coming into this Test following the drawn third encounter at Delhi.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who took over the reins from Kumble who retired after the third match of the series at the Ferozshah Kotla, thus continued his golden run at the helm to lead the team to a third straight win in as many matches. He had led India to wins over South Africa, earlier this year, and at Mohali as stand-in captain for Kumble.

Harbhajan and Mishra, introduced late after lunch, tied the Australian batsmen in knots. Barring the hard-hitting but chancy half-century by Hayden, the rest of the batsmen caved in meekly.

The gangling Ishant sent back first innings centurion Simon Katich (16) and Michael Clarke, promoted in the order to score quickly despite being unwell, and Ponting got run-out by Mishra's superb pick-up and throw from mid-off. The spin duo then got into the act and delivered the goods for India.

It was Mishra who gave the important breakthrough in his very first over to send back Michael Hussey for 19 when he and Hayden had taken the visitors to 150 from 82 for three. Mishra added the wickets of Brad Haddin, caught by Sachin Tendulkar (his 100th Test catch), and Jason Krejza (4), who got stumped by Dhoni.

Harbhajan struck the most important blow in the context of the run-chase by having Hayden leg before with a faster ball as the batsman tried to cart him to the on-side as he had done before with impunity.

The fiesty off spinner also accounted for Brett Lee (0), caught at short leg by Murali Vijay, before trapping Johnson leg before after the last wicket added 18 runs to bring down curtains on the match.

Source : The Hindu

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