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Sachin fashions Indian win

 

SHARJAH : Birthday boy Sachin Tendulkar repeated his class act again with his 15th one-day century to take India to a spectacular title win over Australia in the Coca Cola Sharjah Cup cricket tournament on Friday night.

The little genius who turned 25 on Friday caressed his way through early on before exploding with typical brilliance in cracking 134 off just 131 balls (12x4, 3x6) to set up the thrilling win as India raced to 275 for four in 48.3 overs chasing the huge 272 for nine made by the Aussies in 50 overs on being bravely put in by Indian skipper Mohd Azharuddin.

Sachin TendulkarThe jam-packed crowd went berserk as India kept up a brilliant chase marked by a superb 120-run third wicket stand between Tendulkar and skipper Mohd Azharuddin (58 -64b, 5x4) to pull off the revenge win and ensure the law of averages caught up on the Aussies as well.

Both fell victims to apalling decisions by Pakistan umpire Javed Akhtar on the verge of the scintillating win as the frustrated Aussie bowlers went up in a chorus of appeals, but Ajay Jadeja (11 n.o) and Hrishikesh Kanitkar (6 n.o) rattled up the last few runs with the latter smashing a four to signal victory in style.

Tendulkar once again reveal his genius by working away the ball with contemptuous ease revealing superb temperament as he did in his memorable 142 in the last league tie against the Aussies to pull India into the summit clash before cutting the attack to ribbons.

The world's best batsman had no challengers as he walked away with the titles of player of the tournament -worth an Opel car -and `match' besides claiming the honours for scoring the most number of sixes.

Tendulkar carried the weight of expectations so light on his shoulders as he went about his job of any early errors that could gift- wrap the advantage to the in-form Aussies.

Fellow opener Saurav Ganguly (23 - 42b, 2x4) fell early but Nayan Mongia (28 -41b, 3x4) came off from taking the four catches in the Australian innings by once again proving his immense value on being promoted.

The wicketkeeper brilliantly rotated the strike and set up a breezy 89-run partnership with Tendulkar before being dismissed at the halfway mark - 125 for two -for Azharuddin to come and take over from there.

Tendulkar, who brought up his 100 off only 103 balls (10x4, 1x6) in the 37th over then cut loose to narrow the target as Azhar at the other end kept picking timely fours to reduce any pressure that was building up.

But the little champion fell to a horrendous leg before decision by Akhtar as Kasprowicz, taken apart by the batsman who had just smashed him for a straight six, went round the wicket. The ball seemed to clearly miss off-stump and the shocked Tendulkar walked back to standing ovation from the sellout crowd.

India, 248 in the 45th over at his loss, were reduced to 261 for four as Azharuddin -who survived a close leg before call against Shane Warne - was adjudged caught behind down the legside off Kasprowicz when the only fit case seemed to be declaring the ball wide.

But India under pressure to erase the nightmare they endured last time in December kept their cool to completely make up for the fumble in the Pepsi Cup final at home and pocket $40,000 and the goodwill of the expatriates who packed the venue.

Australian medium-pacer Damien Fleming (2/47) once again was a picture of tantrums as he kept appealing for leg before decisions only to be routinely turned down by the umpires and match referee Talat Ali of Pakistan who was swift to censure Harbhajan Singh was expected to take note of his dissent.

Earlier, India began on a sensational note after inducting Australia first on a track which held promises of holding good till the end.

Young paceman Ajit Agarkar, returning from a groin strain that had sidelined him for the previous three matches, struck two superb blows removing Mark Waugh (7) and all-rounder Tom Moody (1) in the space of six deliveries and Venkatesh Prasad -who bowled beautifully to return figures of 10-1-32-2 -dimissed in-form Ricky Ponting (1) second ball to leave the Aussies tottering at three for 26 in the sixth over.

But skipper Steve Waugh (70 -71b, 4x4, 1x6) and left-hander Darren Lehmann (70 -59b, 6x4, 1x6) put the innings back on course with vital contributions from Gilchrist (45 -60b, 6x4) and the ever consistent Michael Bevan (45 - 63 b, 2x4) to set India a challenging asking rate of 5.46.

Indian players took a victory lap on and into the car and, with Tendulkar at the wheel, took a victory lap a la 1985 Bensen and Hedges series in Australia when Ravi Shastri had won an Audi car.