A characteristically brutal 89 by Andrew Symonds, embossed with five fours and five sixes, helped Australia hold off a gritty India in the third one-day international of the Future Cup in Hyderabad on Friday.
Australia, who saw the return of captain Ricky Ponting from injury, won by 47 runs with 2.2 overs to spare. They lead the contest 2-0 with four matches to go. Symonds, who belted his second 80-plus score in as many matches, was named the Man of the Match.
India, chasing 291 to win after losing the toss, were hurtling towards a big defeat when they sank to 13 for three. But Yuvraj Singh's committed 121 (115b, 3x6, 12x4) and his partnerships with Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni brought them back in the chase.
Given the size of the Australian total, though, the odds were always against the hosts.
There were other factors in the Australian win.Mathew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist gave them a hot start, putting on 76 for the first wicket in 13.2 overs. The dependable Michael Clarke made 59. But it was Symonds who made the difference. He untied the few knots Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan had managed to get the Australian team into.
Brett Lee was Australia's bowling hero. He took crucial wickets to finish with 3/37 from eight overs.
"Are you still in Twenty20 mode?"
The Indian team has been asked this many times recently. On Friday, Yuvraj provided the best possible answer to the question.
It's not even a month since he hit six successive sixes off England's Stuart Broad in the T20 World Cup. By playing an innings that was an opposite of that knock, an effort that demanded a contrasting mindset, Yuvraj proved his talent and maturity.
Tendulkar was India's other hope. It was he and Yuvraj who began the mission to rescue the side, playing with four bowlers instead of five (Rohit Sharma replaced Ramesh Powar).
Though the manner of Tendulkar's dismissal and the timing of his risk (he made room for himself to hit left-arm spinner Brad Hogg through the off-side and was bowled, just when the recovery had begun) were somewhat needless, his 43 runs and the 95-run stand for the fourth wicket with Yuvraj were crucial.
The two, and later Dhoni, picked up pace in the stretch between the 15th and 26th overs. India scored 74 runs from the 12 overs.
After Tendulkar's departure, Dhoni took on the role of supporting Yuvraj, by now sending the ball to all parts of the ground. But when he fell, caught behind off Lee, the writing was on the sightscreen for India.