An insipid batting performance by India saw Australia defeat them by 24 runs in the day-night game at Mohali, and in the process levelling the series 2-2. Chasing a modest 251 set by the Aussies, India got off to a stupendous start thanks to Virender Sehwag and his flashing blade. However, once he fell for 30 from 19 balls, the Indians kept losing their wickets at regular intervals, some rather senselessly, and in the end fell way short. This was after a good bowling performance saw the Indians restrict Australia to 250 on a great batting surface.
India began their chase in whirlwind fashion, with Sehwag smashing the first ball of the innings from a struggling Mitchell Johnson through the off-side boundary. And he never looked back after that, cracking six more fours in his 19-ball cameo. But just when he was looking good, he failed to clear the in-field off a Doug Bollinger delivery and gave Australia an opening. With Gautam Gambhir out with a neck injury, youngster Virat Kohli was promoted to number three. Unfortunately for him and the team, he couldn’t make use of the great opportunity, nibbling at one way outside the off-stump and becoming Bollinger’s second victim.
At the other end, a steady Sachin Tendulkar was trying to resurrect the innings. Somewhere down the line though he seemed to have lost focus with the entire hullabaloo over him approaching the 17,000-run landmark. Sachin ended up playing across the line to off-spinner Nathan Hauritz and was adjudged lbw for 40, a dubious decision and one that cost India dearly. The home side could never recover from 94/3. Last match’s heroes MS Dhoni and Yuvraj also failed to do an encore. Yuvraj was caught short of his crease by a direct hit from Ricky Ponting, while Dhoni was somewhat unlucky to be caught down the leg side for 26. Bollinger, though, was not complaining. His third scalp meant India were all but out of the game.
Suresh Raina disappointed yet again and Ravindra Jadeja failed to make use of a good chance to impress the team management. Even though the lower order put up some fight in the form of breezy cameos from Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar, the irreparable damage had already been done.
The Indian batting performance was in stark contrast to their crafty bowling performance earlier in the day. After winning the toss and electing to bowl first, once again due to the dew factor, Ashish Nehra and Praveen Kumar kept things extremely tight. Nehra was soon rewarded with the scalp of Shaun Marsh, who was trapped lbw for 5. Shane Watson, in the company of skipper Ponting, steadied the innings. The Indian bowlers, however, ensured that the duo did not run away with the game. And so when Watson was caught behind off Harbhajan one short of his 50, the game was back on even keel.
For a change, India were sensational in the field, effecting four run-outs. Ponting (52) was sent back by a direct hit by Jadeja from the deep, whereas Nehra got rid of top scorer Cameron White (62), fielding one on his following through and throwing down the stumps at the bowler’s end, with the non-striker out of his crease.
Sadly for India, on a day when they pulled off the unexpected, they failed to do what was expected.
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