Harbhajan-Amit combo inspire India to win over arch-rivals

NAGPUR (India): Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra combined for seven wickets as India handed Australia just their second series defeat in three years, completing a 172-run victory yesterday to reclaim the Border-Gavaskar trophy 2-0.

The top-ranked Australians were dismissed for 209 in 50.2 overs just before tea on the last day, chasing an unlikely 382 to win the fourth and final test and force a 1-1 series draw.

Spinners Harbhajan (4-64) and Mishra (3-27) built on the fine early work of paceman Ishant Sharma, who took 2-31, and only when opener Matthew Hayden plundered 77 did the Indians look in any danger of giving up their advantage.

India, which last held the Border-Gavaskar trophy in 2004, took the lead in the series with an emphatic, 320-run victory in the second test in Mohali last month.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India’s captain-elect following the retirement of Anil Kumble after the third test, said the series win over Australia was a fitting farewell to international cricket for Kumble and Sourav Ganguly, another former captain.

“It’s very important. It’s one of the series everybody was looking up to. It’s more than the India-Pakistan rivalry right now,’’ he said in a post-match interview. “It was important to catch the moment.’’

Ganguly, who bowed out with 85 and 0, said it was time to step down and he was happy to exit on a high.

“We played outstandingly to win 2-0 against the best team in the world, it is very, very satisfying,’’ he said.

Australia’s previous test series defeat occurred in England in 2005 when Ricky Posting’s lineup handed over the Ashes for the first time in almost two decades.

“It’s been a fair result, to tell you the truth,’’ Ponting said. “From the start of the second test in Mohali, we’ve been chasing our tails and India deserve the 2-0 result.

“It would have been an unbelievable run-chase if we could have got there today — with wearing wickets and good spinners, and fast bowlers doing their job, after lunch we were out of the game. We weren’t good enough here or in Mohali.’’

The Australians, who resumed yesterday at 13-0, needed the fourth-highest successful chase in test history to pull off a series-leveling win and began wanting 369 runs in 90 overs.

They scored 98 in the first session but lost three wickets by lunch — including two in the first six overs — and another seven went after the break. When Hayden and Michael Hussey were sharing a bright 68-run stand for the fourth wicket Australia had a slim chance of staying in touch, but they were removed in consecutive overs to leave the tourists struggling at 154-5.

Hussey received a sharp delivery from Mishra’s first over and the ball lobbed to Rahul Dravid at first slip.

Hayden’s cavalier innings came to an end when he was lbw to a quicker ball from Harbhajan in the next over.

The opener had stroked eight fours and a big six over long-on during his 93-ball knock, but needed more help from his partners to push Australia closer to the formidable total.

Things improved for India when wicketkeeper Brad Haddin (4) chipped to Sachin Tendulkar at mid-on, giving Mishra his second wicket and Tendulkar his 100th test catch.

Australia then lost 7-59 and the match ended when Harbhajan got an lbw decision against No. 11 Mitchell Johnson. — AP

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