Hiccup before historyhttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/print/hiccup-before-history/

Hiccup before history

Chasing 133,India overcome late wobble to go 3-0 up against Australia for the first time

The minute hand of the PCA Stadium clock shifted with certainty to six. It was 3:30pm in Mohali,as umpire Aleem Dar pointed out to Michael Clarke on his wristwatch. At the end of this Nathan Lyon over,India would have exactly 15 more mandatory overs to snatch the remaining 53 runs. The match,and in Australia’s case the four-match series,had boiled down to the final hour of the third Test.

As the last 60 minutes began with India’s score reading a comfortable 80/2,Sachin Tendulkar meticulously took guard. Then,Lyon spun it in. The veteran,playing his 198th Test match,swept it square with sweet precision. Although it was stopped by short leg,the Aussies looked worried. A happy Tendulkar sweeps early. He was batting on four.

To restrict the stroke,Lyon came around the wicket for the second ball. This time,Tendulkar swept it finer,to fine leg for a single. On strike now was Virat Kohli,a man batting on 22 and fast growing in stature as a finisher. He nudged a run to return the strike to Tendulkar. Lyon bowled it flat and full,only for Tendulkar to paddle it past his stumps for four. With three sweeps,each finer than the next,Tendulkar settled into his early 2000s avatar. Then,the very next ball,he brought back the 1990s with three leaps down the track and cracked Lyon mightily over cover for a stroke worth way more than two runs. At the end of the 21st,they needed 45 runs from exactly twice the number of balls. India were in safe hands.

Until those hands nearly turned epileptic.

Over the next six overs,Kohli played out a maiden off Mitchell Starc and was the highlight of a wicket maiden by Peter Siddle. Even before Kohli spooned a catch to Phil Hughes at midwicket in the 27th over,he and Tendulkar had found the runs hard to come by. It was still far from being out of India’s reach at the point — with 30 needed from 56 — but it nearly became so when this series’ first double centurion,MS Dhoni,found it hard to put bat on ball. Now,a chase of 133 in the fourth innings didn’t seem so easy. Now,the Aussies were right back — not for a win but to deny India one.

Play and miss

They nearly did when Dhoni played and missed the remaining two Siddle balls in the 27th,only for him to be returned the strike by Tendulkar off the first ball of the following Starc over. Promptly,Dhoni was beaten all through the 28th and was allowed a single off the last ball to play-and-miss through the 29th. Dhoni couldn’t score off the first five balls of this Siddle over,and,as if on cue,took another run to retain strike for the 30th. Here,as he shouldered arms to let the last of Starc’s deliveries to pass,the Mohali crowd gave the captain a rather wry round of applause. Now,it was down to Tendulkar.

At the end of the next over,with India needing 22 runs from 30 balls,Tendulkar decided to enforce himself upon the situation. It worked the first time,in the 32nd,as he handsomely lofted the left-arm seamer over mid-off for a boundary. But it didn’t in the 33rd as he looked to nick a leg-bye when the ball had rolled a little beyond where silly-point would have been. Halfway down the pitch he turned around,but a diving David Warner got his throw in faster. Had India not got the remaining runs,Dhoni — batting on six from 25 balls — would have had a few questions to answer. On his approach and his captaincy.

Well before India’s chase had begun,Dhoni had nearly let Australia slip away after Pragyan Ojha,R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja had gunned down Australia’s middle-order for just 68 runs. From their overnight score of 75/3,they now had a lead of just 52 runs with two wickets in hand. Australia could well have been bowled out before lunch. But Dhoni’s bowling changes pleased the Aussie tail enough to wag till tea. With no Bhuvneshwar Kumar in sight and Ishant Sharma not making a very merry one,the last two wickets scored eighty runs. India now needed 133 in a little over a session.

As captain,Dhoni has his own personal set of FAQs. Why is he so defensive? Why does he sit back and watch the match take its own course? Why isn’t he more hands-on? You get the flow. But there are two Dhonis in cricket — captain Dhoni and batsman Dhoni. The captain is a baseliner who likes to rally. The kind that gets into a position of strength only to slice it right back to the opponent. But not batsman Dhoni. This one is a hunt-down-everything rottweiler who growls out winners from impossible angles. That rottweiler barked late on Monday evening.

At Tendulkar’s fall,India needed 17 runs from 23 balls. It seemed a hard ask till Jadeja strolled in and smacked two boundaries off Siddle. This perhaps woke Dhoni up,for the second of those fours whistled past his back enroute to the fence. Awake and perhaps realising he had a willow in his hands,Dhoni smoked three consecutive fours (a cover drive and two pulls) off Starc’s first three balls to give India the win. It was 4:30pm in Mohali. India had won the series 3-0.

Shikhar to miss 4th Test

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Mohali: Shikhar Dhawan is set to miss the Delhi Test due to a hand injury he picked up while fielding on Sunday. Dhawan didn’t field on Monday or batted in the second innings. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said: “Shikhar may not play in the final Test. You will soon get to know the official confirmation.”