First win,second wind?

Gambhir gets back among runs as visitors rediscover winning touch before ODI tri-series

Written by Karthikkrishnaswamy | Melbourne | Published: February 4, 2012 1:01 am

Mainly due to his separation from the land of song,dance and tamasha routine,the average NRI is notorious for his love of anything desi and everything dramatic. On Friday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground,a majority of the 62,275 spectators that filled the arena belonged to the aforementioned category. So MS Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir decided to give them something to sing,dance and make tamasha for the rest of their time in Australia.

With just a run to win and eight balls in hand,Dhoni played out two dot balls in the penultimate over to take the clash into the last six balls of the game. With the Swamy Army hollering from the bottom of their collective lungs,Gambhir prepared himself to score the winning run through the capsule of nine fielders positioned inside the inner circle.

As Gambhir cut Clint McKay straight to point for the third straight non-scoring ball,the few and far Aussie fans who had been as good as away supporters all evening,found their vocal cords. Dhoni too used his to advise Gambhir mid-pitch,but it didn’t help as the lefty failed to pierce the gap at mid-on. One required in four.

When the opener missed the next ball all ends up,the momentum shift was an entity of the visible kind. The Aussie fielders moved like a pack of wolves,while Dhoni summoned his opener for yet another mid-wicket dialogue. Gambhir had scored 56 flawless runs until then,but the most important one proved to be the most stubborn of them all.

At 143 kmph,McKay bent his back and bowled his fastest ball of the night. The extra pace helped as Gambhir heaved the ball through midwicket with a resounding grunt,while the resultant boundary gave India its first away match — across all formats — in 15 attempts,with two balls to spare. Chasing 132 for victory,the visitors nearly made a meal of it in the end. But with the two men responsible for registering Team India’s finest cricketing hour still in the middle,the side relished its greatest day of this tour — a win by eight wickets.

It was a symbolic burial of the past and a fresh look into the future,considering it arrived on the same ground where it had begun to spiral downwards; and on the same ground where they will kick-off their tri-series campaign on Sunday.

Dhoni moves up

Just like the World Cup final,Gambhir and Virat Kohli steadied the ship,here with a 50-run partnership,before Dhoni promoted himself to No.4 — either because he sensed a rare away win or due to his lack of trust in the young middle order. Either way,it worked.

A winning combination is rarely tinkered with,but to be fair to Australia skipper George Bailey,he had the bigger picture of the upcoming World T20 in mind. With four changes to Wednesday night’s winning team,including a demotion to Matthew Wade,Bailey took on a side that had nothing else in their mind but to find that elusive win. While new opener Aaron Finch finished the innings as the top-scorer with 36,the rest of the side struggled to stitch any kind of partnerships with him. By the time he was run-out in the seventh over,the Australian run-rate buoyed just above the six-run mark. It would remain that way till the very end of their essay.

Wade,who hit the most glorious one-kneed six of the day off Rahul Sharma in the 12thover,did his bit down the order with a 32-run surge,but the hosts still fell 30-odd runs short of the par score on this drop-in wicket in Melbourne. However,the target was enough to cause plenty of drama.

From the very first ball of the second innings,it was clear the mood Gambhir was in — the nudge and prod one. Virender Sehwag,though,was in vintage mood. Off Brett Lee,he played and missed his first ball,cracked a boundary off his second,nearly killed a seagull in the third before smashing Xavier Doherty for the biggest six of the day.

Sehwag was out soon after,but Gambhir dragged on,one guided single at a time. He poked Lee towards third-man and hurried McKay to fine-leg to bring up most of his first 22 runs. But when Brad Hogg was brought on,he unleashed the other typically Gambhir trait — hitting the spinner inside-out for a boundary through extra cover.

Just short of the finish line,Gambhir faced the ball of the day when Mitchell Marsh made him look ugly with a cruelly directed bouncer in the 18th over. But the younger Marsh missed his yorker next ball,and Gambhir brought up his half century with just 11 to win. At that point,like any of their favourite Bollywood movies,the Swamy Army knew just how the match was going to end. Nevertheless,they oohed and aahed through heart-clutching moments before the heroes slayed the villains and won the NRI audiences over.

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