Kochi: With the rain God relenting and a full match becoming a reality amidst bleak forecast, Australia forced a 1-0 lead in the seven-match ODI series, defeating India by 84 runs in the second game at a packed Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here today.
As the Indian batsmen fell like nine pins, only skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the last to get out, and Robin Uthappa came good.
Dhoni made 58 of 88 balls with two sixes and two fours, while Uthappa scored a breezy 41 with two sixes of just 31 balls.
India reached the respectable 200 run mark, thanks only to their skipper Dhoni who scripted two substantial partnerships -- first with a 41 runs stand with his predecessor Dravid who himself made 31 and then last wicket partnership with Sreesanth for 32 runs.
It was a full house at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here as Dhoni won the toss and put Australia into bat. However, the Aussies started on a grim note, losing their stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist for a duck and then Brad Hogg for three.
But once again they made a scintillating recovery and made a match-winning total of 306 runs in their alloted 50 overs, although today there were two scriptwriters and interestingly it was not in form batsman Michael Clarke, instead it was all-rounder Andrew Symonds and middle-order batsman Brad Haddin, who put on a 108-run stand for the fifth wicket. Interestingly, both of them finished their innings on an identical 87 though Haddin was not ou.
Earlier in the day, opener Mathew Hayden gave the much needed momentum to the Aussie innings scoring 75 runs and sharing a 94-run stand for the fourth wicket with Symonds.
While bowling, Australia struck three quick blows to India dismissing both the openers Gautam Gambhir (7), Sachin Tendulkar (16) and one down Yuvraj Singh (10) in the space of 11.4 overs to reduce their score to 79 for 3.
Left-arm pacer Michell Johnson (1-46), Stuart Clark (2-14), James Hopes (1-32), Michael Clarke (2-35) and left-arm spinner Brad Hogg (3-40 ) did the star turn with the ball for Australia.
The Indian innings unfolded with Sachin walking out with Gautam Gambhir to begin the chase of 307 runs. The Aussie pacers, bowling to a game plan as it appeared, struck early blows. Mitchell Johnson had Gambhir clean bowled who missed the line of the ball completely after the batsman began well, striking a boundary of the first ball of the fourth over.
Sachin was getting his eye in when on 16, he drove uppishly to short cover to see the ball ending up in Symonds' hands. He struck a six and a four as India were under pressure down 2-58 losing the best batsman.
Then adding to India's misery the world record holder for striking six sixes in an over in T20 World Cup, Yuvraj Singh began on a belligerent note, hitting swing bowler J Hopes for a six over long on. But on reaching double figures (10 off 10 balls), Yuvraj holed out to Hayden off Hopes to see India down 79-3 in 11.4 overs However, there was hope for India as at the other end, Robin Uthappa, who had come in for the injured Sourav Ganguly, was rattling the Aussie speedsters with his blisterieg attack. The one down batsman, coming back into the team, struck some lusty blows, including two sixes off Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee. But Clark struck again for Australia at the pavilion end, trapping Uthappa leg before wicket as the Karnataka batsman was shaping for a drive.
India were then seemingly at the mercy of the ruthless Aussies at 87 for 4.
The Sachin magic in Kochi having failed to come through with both the bat and the ball, the battle was clearly in the hands of veteran Rahul Dravid, looking to better his batting average, and the man to whom he had handed over the burden of captaincy, Dhoni, but the Aussie bowlers had them on a tight leash. India posted their first 100 in 19.4 overs, but still had to get 207 runs to be one up in the series, however, the Aussies did not seem to have let India slip out of their grasp.
Nicknawed the Wall, Dravid cracked fiercly, pulling left arm spinner Brad Hogg to midwicket fence and Mitchell Johnson took a splendid catch just on the ropes to see India's fifth wicket falling. Dravid's 49-run stand with Dhoni, which slowly seemed to be settling down the team after the disaster, ended after 69 balls.
India were 136 for 5 in 25.1 overs.
India were done in further and the whiff of an easy Aussie win was already in the air. Just three runs later, Irfan Pathan, who had faced only seven balls, was run out.
When Pathan, the non-striker, set off for a run, Hogg picked up the ball and threw it to the bowler Michael Clark who removed the bails in no time. India, as it all seemed to be over, were 139 for six in just 27 overs, and 168 runs to score for what now appeared to be an impossible task.
Dhoni, who was on six when Dravid fell, seemed a dejected man as he gathered runs slowly to console himself, pulling Brad Hogg to a six over mid wicket. But as he reached 31 and India 154 for 7 in 303 overs, it was further tragedy for India as Michael Clark had Harbhajan stumped. However, Ramesh Powar held up the Aussie celebration mood, giving Dhoni good company before falling to left armer Hogg after hitting a six off the bowler over long off after his boundary earlier. He scored 17 off 18 balls. India lost their eighth wicket as Hogg picked up his second.
Dhoni, who was batting on 33, the second highest score after Uthappa's perky 41, now had only Zaheer Khan to keep the game going, albeit out of grasp totally with still 130 runs to get and only two wickets remaining.
But 12 runs later, Dhoni lost Zaheer to see India at the brink of defeat. Zaheer edged Brad Hogg to Hodge at gully. Zaheer (3) faced 14 balls. The last man Sreesanth joined his skipper. The Aussies emerging the victors was certain, but India made sure to cross the 200 mark.
There was a minor hold up in the game in the 47th over when a drive of Hopes by Dhoni struck Sreesanth at the non-striker's end which saw the physio John Gloster attending a minor blow on the head.
Then it was all over when Dhoni after striking a six off Brad Hogg over mid wicket, got out to the bowler the very next ball, caught by Hodge at mid wicket. With Sreesanth, he put on 32 runs for the last wicket.