March 4, 2002

Doughty Harbhajan saves India's blushes

India have won the second and final Test of their two-Test series against Zimbabwe by four wickets. At Feroz Shah Kotla on Monday, it was Harbhajan Singh's turn to become the unlikely hero with the bat by hitting a boundary over cover and a big six straight down the ground to take India past the modest target. India finished on 126/6 with Harbhajan Singh (14*) and Sanjay Bangar (3*) the two men at the crease at the end.

Resuming on 36/3, India got off to a flying start. Sachin Tendulkar picked up 12 runs off the first over of the day bowled by Grant Flower. A glorious cover drive and a powerful square cut thudded into the signboards.

In the following over bowled by Flower, the little master struck another four through mid-wicket, forcing Carlisle to make a bowling change. The idea was quite simple, Tendulkar scoring runs at one end while Das would deal with the guiles of Ray Price.

Price has bowled exceptionally well on this tour and he was distinctly unlucky as umpire Jayaprakash turned down a couple of shouts of lbw against Shiv Sunder Das.

Tendulkar played a delicate leg glance and then a superb flick through mid-wicket off Streak for fours, forcing Carlisle to bring back Grant Flower into the attack. Tendulkar, however, was in a hurry and he was in no mood to allow Flower to settle into a rhythm. A slightly short delivery was pulled high in the air over square leg for a massive six.

Finally, Price got an opportunity to have a go at Tendulkar and immediately had his man lbw, trying to sweep. The little master made a valuable contribution of 42 off 52 balls with the help of seven fours and a six.

Rahul Dravid came out to bat and found himself in trouble against Price. The scoring suffered substantially as Streak and Price tightened the screws. This had its effect too; Das (31) was given out lbw to Streak, umpire de Silva giving it in the favour of the bowler when the ball appeared to be going down the leg. India were 103/5 at that stage.

Rahul Dravid (6) was the next man to be `Price'd out, caught by Andy Flower at gully after pushing forward to the left-arm spinner. India were under tremendous pressure (105/6) at that stage. Umpire Asoka de Silva was not done yet. An appalling decision from him gave four leg byes to India, after Streak had struck Harbhajan Singh plumb in front of the wicket. If that ball was going to hit anything, it was the middle stump.

Soon it was the turn of umpire Jayaprakash to negate another very close shout for lbw by Price; Bangar being the lucky batsman. Harbhajan Singh pinched four over-throws to ease the pressure a bit. And, then came Harbhajan Singh's two big hits off Streak to finish the match. Harbhajan was deservedly named that Man of the Match while Anil Kumble picked up the Man of the Series award.

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