India eye historic win Down Under

Having crossed the first hurdle in Sydney, Dhoni's men need to win at Brisbane to wrap up the CB Series and end a long, bitter tour.

updated: December 01, 2008 08:01 IST
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Having crossed the first hurdle, India will seek a happy ending to a bitter tour by clinching their first-ever tri-series title in Australia as they go into the second of the best-of-three finals against the world champions at the Gabba here on Tuesday morning.

India, just one match away from claiming the historic feat after they won the first match of the best-of-three finals at SCG yesterday, will be looking to carry the momentum in what promises to be another thrilling day-night encounter.

MS Dhoni and his men would be on a mission, especially after the sub-continent giants were beaten in the controversial Test series and being at the receiving end of a series of provocations by the Australian cricketers.

India, however, may have to do without the services of their new pace sensation Ishant Sharma who suffered a finger injury in the first finals. Sharma still carries a swelling on his right middle finger and has been rendered a doubtful starter for the crucial game.

Fortunately, though, India has capable medium-pacers in Sreesanth and Munaf Patel in reserve. Young Praveen Kumar has shown an ability to withstand battering from the rival ranks and Irfan Pathan's off-form the other night is seen only as a one-off situation.

The four, along with Harbhajan Singh, could answer to the call of five bowlers and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, despite his brilliant return of none for 33 from 10 overs, could be benched.

India's batting is also coming together at the right time and, on form if not on reputation, the visitors look a better side than the hosts.

India is bowling and fielding with energy in the field and their batsmen are putting on runs and stands, which will test Australia's well-earned reputation to bounce back to the full.

Three of the top five wicket-takers in the series are Australians but strangely all three -- Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken and Mitchell Johnson -- were put to sword by rampaging Indian batsmen last night.

Australia pride themselves in playing the big games well which they would now be required to do twice over the remaining week.

Australia will be desperate for return of form of their key players -- Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds. Opener Adam Gilchrist too, despite his couple of flourishes, has largely been a failure in the series.

For somebody who has been part of the most successful cricket teams of all ages, it would be ironical if Gilchrist in his departing series is witness to an unlikely loss to the Indians in the finals.

The pitch at Gabba is rated as one of the best for one-day cricket in Australia though with winter setting in, no team would prefer chasing under lights.

The Indians, on the other hand, feel besieged and stirred at the same time, as all hell has broken loose in Australian media about Harbhajan's apparent mimicry of a monkey of which, strangely, no evidence exists.

As Australian media make one last attempt to hound out Harbhajan from the game, the Indian off-spinner is keeping his cool and relishing his success, the latest chapter of which was scripted in the first finals in Sydney's poetic justice as his two scalps include his two most bitter provocateurs, Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds.

Harbhajan has claimed only seven wickets from nine games in the series so far but his average (33.28) and the superb economy rate of 4.22 per over has meant that he is a shining exception of a spinner in a series out-and-out dominated by the faster men.

Much as competitive cricket between the two sides have kept the fans enthralled, the never-ending controversy in the background have ensured that the rivals would probably never come to sit and share a drink in the bar, except possibly for when they are arranged for their franchisees to be showcased in the Indian Premier League.


India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Sachin Tendulkar,
Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh,
Irfan Pathan, Praveen Kumar, Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel,
S Sreesanth, Piyush Chawla, Virender Sehwag.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (capt), Matthew Hayden, Adam
Gilchrist, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Andrew Symonds, James
Hopes, Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken, Mitchell Johnson, Stuart
Clark, Brad Hogg, Brad Haddin.

Match starts at 8.45 am IST.