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5th ODI: Australia beat India by 3 runs

Sachin Tendulkar wielded his willow like a magician, scoring a breathtaking 175 off 141 balls, but chasing 351, India fell short by an agonising three runs in the fifth One-day International on Thursday.

In the process, Australia seized a 3-2 lead in the seven-game series at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. It was a game India should have pulled off but they failed to hold their nerve yet again following Tendulkar’s dismissal.

With the odds heavily stacked against them, Australia, whose first choice players were rendered non-combative because of injuries, went into the game hoping to pull off a miracle.

What unfolded was a pulsating thriller which saw 697 runs being scored. Ricky Ponting had no hesitation in opting to bat first on a belter after winning the toss, before southpaw Shaun Marsh (112) struck a run-a-ball maiden century and handy knocks from Shane Watson (93) and Cameron White (57) carried the team to a formidable 350.

Chasing this total was never going to be easy but one couldn’t write off the much-vaunted Indian batting. The hosts began in right earnest with Virender Sehwag (38; 30 balls, 4×4, 1×6) setting the early pace but his departure on 66 shifted focus to Sachin Tendulkar.

Though the Indians lost a couple of wickets, the Little Master kept his side in the hunt with some enthralling strokeplay. He showed glimpses of the old Sachin who has terrorised bowlers for two decades now.

The Mumbaikar went on to complete his 45th ODI century off 81 balls with a single to third man off Watson. From 162 for four, Sachin and Suresh Raina took the score to 299 to give the Aussies some food for thought.

Ponting responded by bringing on Watson in the 43rd over and the medium pacer had Raina caught by wicketkeeper Graham Manou off a top edge, before dismissing Harbhajan Singh to bring the Aussies back into the game.

In the end, India failed to hold their nerve once again in a tight game. At one stage, Ravindra Jadeja struck a couple of fours as the Indian score reached 332, with just 19 off 18 balls.

They still couldn’t pull it off. To India’s misfortune, Tendulkar tried to paddle-scoop a slower one from debutant Clint McKay over short fine leg but ended up hitting it down Nathan Hauritz’s throat. Tendulkar’s knock contained 19 fours and four sixes.

With Jadeja and Nehra following Tendulkar to the pavilion, it was left to Praveen Kumar to do something miraculous. He struck a six and almost did the impossible before a run out did him in.

In the afternoon, Watson and Marsh showed immense character and purpose as they strung together the best stand for the first wicket. Watson showed the way with some very sensible cricket.

The duo paced the innings well without taking too many risks. At the death, White and Michael Hussey (31 not out) put the Indian bowling to the sword to help Australia reach 350.

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