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Tendulkar century inspires upset Indian win

Published: Sunday, March 2, 2008, 17:20 [IST]
 
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SYDNEY :
A historic Sachin Tendulkar century ensured India claimed first blood in the tri-series finals with a stunning six-wicket win over Australia at the SCG here on Sunday.

With Tendulkar making an unbeaten 117 from 120 balls and youngster Rohit Sharma offering wonderful support, India made 242 for six in 45.5 overs in reply to the home side's 239 for eight to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three finals.

After the war of words between the sides preceding the match, the Indians had extra reason to celebrate when they notched their first ever one-day international win at the SCG and just their third win in their past 20 matches against the home side in Australia.

The result followed a tense week since their last encounter, with Matthew Hayden calling Harbhajan Singh an "obnoxious weed," the Indian spinner responding by saying the opener was one of the last liked players in world cricket.

And the Indians lodged an official complaint about provocative behaviour by the Australians on the field.

Criticised for not batting well in run chases recently, Tendulkar had a point to prove and did it emphatically, placing the ball exquisitely to score his first one-day international century in 39 matches in Australia, and 42nd overall, to lead his side to victory.

He and Robin Uthappa (17) set the foundation with India's highest opening partnership of the series in putting on 50, but India then wobbled in the chase, slipping to 87 for three when Yuvraj Singh again fell cheaply.

However, Tendulkar looked in total command and joined with Sharma to put on 123 and take the game away from the Australians, who were beaten in last year's tri-series finals by England.

Tendulkar brought up his hundred with an easy single off James Hopes, having faced only 106 deliveries and hit eight boundaries.

Sharma fell the very next ball, bowled by Hopes (2-42) for a fine 66 from 87 balls, but it was academic, with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Tendulkar guiding their side home.

Earlier, Hayden made 82 from 88 balls, but Harbhajan had the last laugh in his bitter rivalry with the Australian opener, claiming the wicket of the opener as one of two crucial scalps that turned the match India's way.

The Australians were again in early trouble after winning the toss and electing to bat, slumping to 24 for three, but Hayden led their fightback and Mike Hussey chipped in with 45.

Hayden struck a number of powerful boundaries, including six in Irfan Pathan's wayward first two overs, as he raced to his half-century in just 43 balls despite the loss of wickets at the other end.

He and Symonds (31) revived the Australian innings by putting on 100, but both were caught near the boundary from the bowling of Harbhajan in quick succession.

Hayden seemed set for a century, but swept Harbhajan to deep square leg, where shock inclusion Piyush Chawla charged in off the fence to complete a fine catch.

Moments earlier, Symonds had also fallen to his arch-rival, caught on the mid-wicket boundary after advancing at Harbhajan.

Harbhajan had been struggling to get his line and pace right before that dismissal, but his confidence surged once he had a wicket and the rest of his spell was impressive as he finished with 2-38.

Australia's top order woes continued when Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke all failed to reach double figures.

The teenage Chawla impressed with his leg-spinners, with 0-33 from his 10 overs, while Praveen Kumar made the important early breakthroughs to finish with 2-49.

Ishant Sharma had 1-32 from eight overs, but was forced from the field by an apparent hand injury.

The second final is on Tuesday in Brisbane.

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