Left-arm spinner Murali Kartik bowled like a dream and then supported Zaheer Khan in a 52-run ninth-wicket partnership as India stole a two-wicket win over Australia to salvage some pride in the Future Cup here on Wednesday.
Man of the match Kartik bowled a spell of 10-3-27-6 to contain Australia to 193 in 41.3 overs in the seventh and final One-dayer at the Wankhede stadium after Ricky Ponting won the toss.
Kartik’s spell was India’s third best in one-dayers. Anil Kumble’s 6-12 against West Indies in the Hero Cup, 1993, and Ashish Nehra’s 6-23 against England in the 2003 World Cup take the first two places.
Barring Sachin Tendulkar (21), who probably was playing in his last One-day International at the Wankhede stadium --- the venue will be renovated and the next international is scheduled in 2010 --- and sensible batting by Robin Uthappa (47, 59b, 4x4, 2x6), none of the other top-order batsmen showed the determination to stay in the middle.
From 64 for six by the 19th over, India were guided to victory by two important partnerships, Uthappa and Harbhajan adding 65 for the seventh before the Zaheer-Kartik stand.
India’s hopes vanished when Uthappa was trapped by left-arm wrist spinner Michael Clarke and Harbhajan followed four overs later. But Zaheer and Kartik kept their cool as they had plenty overs at hand. India eventually won with four overs to spare. The two had joined hands in the 36th over.
Rahul Dravid was dropped from the match after a poor show this series --- 51 in five matches --- but fellow Bangalorean Uthappa fought on, batted with responsibility and timing. He carted two sixes on either side of the wicket, one each off Bracken and James Hopes.
Earlier, it was Kartik all the way. Bowling at a stretch from the 18th over, he applied the brakes on the Australians, whose innings initially gathered momentum through Ricky Ponting’s free-stroking 57.
Kartik has always done well at the Wankhede stadium. It was at the same venue, against the same opposition in November 2004, that he won the man of the match award for his figures of four for 44 and three for 32 that bowled India to a consolation victory in the fourth and final Test after the series was already lost.
Another Test later against South Africa in Kanpur that season, he was dumped in wilderness, having been used sparsely in one-dayers. Even after working his way back from a shoulder surgery last year, he was overlooked despite performing well in the domestic competitions.
Like Sourav Ganguly and Zaheer, who returned to the Indian team with success after playing English county cricket last year, Kartik has made a remarkable comeback after a full season with Middlesex.
The Australians were on a high, having already clinched the series. But they did not get a good start, losing opener Michael Clarke on the first ball of the match, trapped leg before by Zaheer for a second successive first-ball duck. Pakistani umpire Aleem Dar, officiating in his 100 th international, ruled him out. Only captain Ricky Ponting looked set for a big knock. Adam Gilchrist used his horizontal bat briefly but fell to a similar stroke, edging Irfan Pathan into Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s gloves.
On a surface where the ball was coming on to the bat and the outfield was super fast, Ponting played a punishing knock, being particularly severe on Rudra Pratap Singh. He shared fifty-plus partnerships with Gilchrist and the struggling Brad Hodge.
After Kartik induced Hodge to cut straight into first slip’s hands with a beauty in his second over, he immediately removed the dangerman Andrew Symonds.
Symonds was welcomed to the crease by the booing crowd, and after he drove Kartik uppishly into Sachin Tendulkar’s hands at short cover for a rare first-ball duck, he was booed again.
Soon after reaching his half-century with a delicate sweep for four off Harbhajan Singh, Ponting nicked RP Singh to Dhoni.