Dhoni leads India to victory

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The Independent Online

A sparkling century from Mahendra Singh Dhoni helped India defeat Australia by 99 runs in the second one-day international in Nagpur to level the seven-match series 1-1.

Dhoni cracked 124 off 107 deliveries and Gautam Gambhir made 76, the two adding 119 at better than a run a ball for the fourth wicket, while Suresh Raina bludgeoned 62 off 50 to help the home side to 354 for seven - their highest ever one-day total against Australia.

Praveen Kumar then claimed two early breakthroughs and, while Michael Hussey offered stiff resistance with a knock of 53, India's spinners took wickets at regular intervals to bowl the tourists out for 255 in 48.3 overs.

Slow left-armer Ravindra Jadeja finished the pick of the bowlers three for 35 from 6.3 overs.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting won the toss and put India in, gambling on the dew factor, but Virender Sehwag gave his side a rousing start with a fiery 40 off 31 deliveries at the top of the order.

Ponting's decision to field appeared a good one, though, when Peter Siddle snared Sachin Tendulkar early.

Tendulkar, needing 83 runs at the start of this match to reach the 17,000-run milestone in ODIs, managed only four when he edged Siddle to Cameron White at first slip.

By then, Sehwag had already given notice of his intentions, slamming Ben Hilfenhaus for a couple of boundaries in his first over with the new ball.

Sehwag continued to plunder runs and had smashed four more boundaries and a six when he mistimed a drive off Mitchell Johnson and hit straight to Hilfenhaus at mid-off.

Yuvraj Singh (23), playing his first competitive match since a finger injury forced him out of India's Champions Trophy opener against Pakistan in South Africa, looked in ominous form but departed quickly.

At Yuvraj's dismissal, India were precariously poised at 97 for three, but Dhoni and Gambhir quickly settled nerves.

Remarkably, Dhoni hit only three boundaries en route to his half-century, the rest coming through some excellent running between the wickets.

Gambhir matched his captain all the way, but was eventually run out, a direct hit from Nathan Hauritz catching him well short of the crease at the non-striker's end after he was sent back by Dhoni.

Raina then joined Dhoni at the crease and the two accelerated nicely at the death.

Dhoni reached his fifth one-day century with a straight six off Shane Watson and then smacked the bowler for another off the next delivery as India sped past the 300-run mark.

Raina raised his half-century off just 42 deliveries and, while Johnson returned to remove both Dhoni and Raina in the final over of the innings, India had by then posted a formidable total.

Praveen provided India with the first breakthrough, sending Tim Paine's off stump cartwheeling with a delivery that nipped back off the seam.

Ishant Sharma, bowling first change, then struck with his first delivery, inducing an edge from Watson which Tendulkar snapped up neatly at first slip, while Praveen trapped Ponting in front as Australia's chase withered.

Hussey and Cameron White briefly steadied with a 48-run stand for the fourth wicket, but Harbhajan Singh broke that association by getting rid of White.

Hussey battled on and raised his 26th ODI half-century, but the introduction of Jadeja ended his stay at the crease.

Jadeja then picked off Adam Voges (36) and Shaun Marsh as Australia crumbled to 194 for seven to leave the result a foregone conclusion.

Hauritz (30 not out) threw his bat at the end, but the required run rate had ballooned and Australia were eventually skittled out.