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India lose to Australia by two wickets in a thriller

Brett Lee smashed a six in the last over to give Australia victory in a closely contested encounter.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2004 19:20 IST

India staged a remarkable fightback but could not stop the Australians from scripting a sensational two wicket victory in a rain-truncated triangular series cricket match on Thursday.

After career-best knocks by Yuvraj Singh (139) and V V S Laxman (106 not out) propelled the visitors to 296 for four in 50 overs, Australia benefitted from a rain interruption which reduced their target to 225 in 34 overs.

The world champions were cruising along comfortable at 150 for one in 21 overs with Adam Gilchrist (95) and captain Ricky Ponting (42) plundering runs at will before the visitors effected a dramatic turnaround with four quick wickets to set the stage for an exciting finish.

Needing 11 runs in the last over with just two wickets in hand, Brett Lee tilted the scale in Australia's favour by clobbering paceman Laxmipathy Balaji for a six in the fourth ball to tie to score.

Lee then took a single off the next ball to seal the fate of the Indians in a what turned out to be a nail-biting contest.

The loss also dashed Sourav Ganguly's hopes of breaking the Sydney Cricket Ground jinx, where India have never won a one-day match against the Australians in nine attempts so far.

The visitors appeared in a solid position when they posted a healthy total after electing to bat, and then snared the wicket of new opener Simon Katich, playing in place of Matthew Hayden, in the third over.

Katich was caught by Ganguly at short mid-wicket off Pathan as Australia lost their first wicket on 24.

But Gilchrist and Ponting ensured India's joy was shortlived with blazing shots all around the park as Australia raced to 73 for one in 9.2 overs.

The rain interruption failed to stem the run flow as the duo continued in the same vein even after the forced break as an overcast sky threatened to open up any moment.

They put the inexperienced bowling attack to sword as Australia posted their 100 in just 12.2 overs and 150 in 21 overs.

At that stage, the visitors looked almost out of the match but then Pathan changed the complexion of the game with a double strike in his seventh and last over.

The target seemed an easy one with Gilchrist (95 off 72 balls) on fire but Pathan removed Ponting and Damien Martyn off successive balls to bring back the Indians back into the match.

Murali Kartik struck from the other end removing the dangerous Gilchrist who made his runs with 14 fours and a six.

The visitors then created a flutter in the opposition camp when Ganguly had Andrew Symonds (16) caught in the deep off Ajit Agarkar to have Australia reeling at 176 for 5.

Ganguly picked up another wicket clean bowling Michael Bevan (12) and then broke the non-striker's stumps off a throw from the deep to send Ian Harvey (1) packing to leave the home side staggering at 210 for 8 with 15 required from the final two overs.

Ajit Agarkar conceded only four runs from the penultimate over but Balaji failed from the other end as smacked him for 11 runs in the final over.

India, despite the loss, had enough reasons to be pleased with themselves as Yuvraj Singh and VVS Laxman hit centuries and the absence of top guns like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag was not felt too badly.

Then in the field they stood up gallantly and pulled the game to the wire before a missed stumping probably cost them the game.

Earlier, Yuvraj and Laxman toyed with the world champions' bowling attack to put on a record fourth wicket partnership of 213 runs to help India post a challenging total.

Joining hands at the fall of Rahul Dravid (12) with India 80 for three in the 16th over, the pair played sensibly accumulating the runs before stepping up the run rate in the final overs with some dashing stroke play.

Yuvraj, who came to the crease when Laxman was on 35 was more severe in the death displaying some imperious shots.

Yuvraj's 122-ball knock, containing 16 fours and two towering sixes, later earned him the man of the match award.

Laxman, on the otherhand, took his time in compiling his fourth century - all against Australia, taking 126 balls to reach the landmark. His 130-ball innings was studded with five boundaries.

With today's knock, Laxman bettered his previous best of 103 not out scored against Australia at Brisbane on Sunday.

Yuvraj and Laxman also rewrote the record books by posting India's best partnership for the fourth wicket against Australia. They eclipsed Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, who had made 109 at Melbourne five years ago.

Lee, who retained his place despite giving away 83 runs against India in the last match at Brisbane, justified Ponting's faith in him by removing Ganguly with a short delivery. Ganguly was caught behind after making just one.

Patel (28) played a cameo before being done in by a slow ball from Jason Gillespie.

Vice-captain Dravid, looked in total control during his brief stay, hitting three fours for his 12 before departing in the 16th over, caught behind off Andy Bichel.

When Gilchrist caught Ganguly, he became the first wicketkeeper to claim 300 dismissals. At the end of the Indian innings he had taken his tally to 302 from 177 matches.


First Published: Jan 22, 2004 09:07 IST