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October 30, 2009

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Dhoni blast sinks the Aussies

A QUICKFIRE century by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni set up India's 99-run victory over Australia on Wednesday as the home team levelled the one-day series 1-1.

Man of the match Dhoni hit 124 off 107 balls, putting on 119 for the fourth wicket with Gautam Gambhir (76) and 136 for the next with Suresh Raina (62) to propel India to 354 for seven after it lost the toss in the day-night game.

After India compiled its highest one-day total against Australia, paceman Praveen Kumar took two early wickets including skipper Ricky Ponting for 12, to help Dhoni's team bowl out the visitors for 255 in 48.3 overs.

Michael Hussey (53) recorded his second consecutive half-century for Australia but young left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja took three for 35 to trigger a middle-order collapse and fast bowler Ishant Sharma claimed two for 37.

"We lost Sachin Tendulkar early but Virender Sehwag (40) and Gambhir gave us the start we needed," said Dhoni referring to a second-wicket partnership of 46.

"They set the platform for me and I was able to play my own innings," he said at the prize-giving ceremony.

Gambhir struck his second consecutive half-century as he and Dhoni turned the heat on an Australia attack weakened by the absence of injured pair Brett Lee and James Hopes.

Gambhir was run out by a direct hit at the non-striker's end after being sent back by Dhoni but the skipper and Raina tore into the bowling, smashing 108 runs in the final 10 overs.

Straight six

Dhoni cracked nine fours and three sixes and reached his fifth one-day international century with a straight six off medium-pacer Shane Watson before falling in the final over to Mitchell Johnson (3-75).

Kumar then bowled Australia opener Tim Paine for eight before Sharma forced Watson (19) to edge to Tendulkar at slip with his first delivery.

Ponting was trapped LBW in the 11th over before Hussey forged useful partnerships with Cameron White (23) and Adam Voges (36).

Jadeja, though, dismissed Hussey, Shaun Marsh (21) and Voges to end Australia's chances.

"Full credit to India, they outplayed us in every aspect of the game tonight," said Ponting. "It was always going to be a hard run-chase."

Meanwhile, Australia's injury toll continued to escalate with Paine sidelined for the remaining five one-dayers and forcing Australia to draft in its third-choice wicketkeeper.

Paine fractured the ring finger of his right hand while gloving a Peter Siddle bouncer in the eight over. He will be replaced by South Australia captain Graham Manou.

"Graham richly deserves this opportunity following his Ashes debut and his successful domestic season last year in all forms of the game," selection chairman Andrew Hilditch said yesterday.

Hilditch ruled out an early return from injury for first-choice 'keeper Brad Haddin, who has been recovering from a broken finger and not played at first-class level since Australia's Ashes test series loss in England in August.

Australia was already missing vice-captain Michael Clarke, batsman Callum Ferguson and veteran paceman Nathan Bracken due to injuries.


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