India create history at Newlands

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Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011, 9:43 [IST]
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India create history at Newlands

India played as a unified and inspired force to beat South Africa in the third one-dayer of their on-going tour, at Cape Town. And what makes the victory even sweeter is that India have a new record to savour as well. For the first time, the visitors have gone one-up on the hosts in a one-day series in the Rainbow Nation. Now, the tourists must be damn certainly fancying their chances of running off with the series also. The momentum has swung their way and the scales have tilted in their favour.

The win was nothing short of dramatic however, for at 93/5 an all-too familiar tale seemed poised to unfold. India appeared destined to suffocate from the choked run-flow and fall away in pursuance of what was turning out to be a competitive target. The same malady in India's innings was playing out again, with the top-order collapsing in a heap. But this time, the middle order nearly joined them as well. At Yuvraj's departure, no one would have seriously given India a chance of clawing their way back into the match.

But as is becoming his wont, Yusuf Pathan was able to turn the match on its head. Rather than shriveling up to try and absorb the shock of the pace bowlers, he firmed up and turned his bat into a missile deflector. Streaky fours gave way to more confidentally-struck boundaries before a barrage of sixes followed to leave the South Africans scratching thier heads for a new strategy. Having pried back the momentum and shirked off the pressure, Yusuf wisely settled into a singles-and-twos-garnering mode.

But just as impressive was the character demonstrated by the rest of latter order. Harbhajan who hasn't had a great sries with the bat thus far, kept a cool head and hung in their till he found his footing and was able to menouever the bat to ping the ball in the middle. When Pathan finally went with India needing 39 to win off 61 balls, Bhajji took charge. But at this stage one could argue that he was batting a little irresponsibly - taking wild swipes at the ball which were not connecting while leaving his stumps virtually exposed and the keeper straining for that imminent edge.

However, Bhajji was aware that his strength was to hit the ball hard and he played to his strength, twice connecting for huge sixes in the dying overs. Zaheer tried mimicking him only to perish with India still needing a desperate 13 to win. Nothing much could be expected off tail-ender Ashish Nehra at that stage, but he defied the odds, batted cautiously and then when the time was ripe, swiped the winning four.

However, all India's batting efforts would have come to naught if the bowlers hadn't set up the win for them with the ball. Zaheer bowled perhaps his tightest line ever, effecting three dismissals from bowling the batsmen. His breakthroughs were timely, the first coming at the start of the innings and the latter two, at the death. He was ably supported by Munaf Patel who broke the worrying 110-run stand between J P Duminy and Faf du Plessis and then removed Dale Steyn just as he threatened to cut loose. Equally impressive were Bhajji's strikes, removing two of the top three batsmen.

All in all, it was a magnificent all-round display of quality cricket from India where the team played as a cohesive unit. India has shown how twice it can use their strengths to overpower the mighty hosts. Now, can they make it three in a row?


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