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India's cricket glory lifts gloom of political crisis

NEW DELHI, March 16 (AFP) - Obsessed with a widening political crisis, Indian newspapers still made space on their front pages Friday to hail the national cricket team's stunning victory in the second Test against Australia in Calcutta.

"Forget headline to the left, please look below," said the Indian Express, drawing the reader's attention away from the political fallout of a massive bribery scandal to a picture of Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly jumping into his teammates' arms.

"Miracle: 11 Indians with tons of attitude" ran the Express headline after what is already being hailed as one of the greatest Test matches of all time.

After being forced to follow-on, India pulled off a legendary Houdini act to down Australia by 171 runs, level the three-match series 1-1 and end the tourists' record streak of 16 consecutive wins.

"An Indian side searched deep within themselves, found something magical and ended the day improbable winners," was the verdict of the Express.

"They achieved this on the strength of three characteristics not usually associated with Indian teams: The desire to fight back, a strong team spirit and the ability of younger players to pick up the gauntlet after the seniors failed."

The Hindu newspaper saw the match as a turning point, after a string of defeats and a damaging match-fixing scandal had left Indian cricket in the doldrums.

"India does the incredible" ran the Hindu headline.

"Indian cricket discovered new friends, new avenues and the spirit to fight. The sporting crowd of Calcutta could not have asked for more," it said.

"The 'City of Joy' was witness to a grand drama ... a most enchanting tale for many in the stands to narrate to their grandchildren."

Indian cricket great Sunil Gavaskar, writing in the Times of India, was equally effusive.

"What a thrilling win. The mind boggles at it all," Gavaskar said.

"That cricket is a game of glorious uncertainty has been a cliche used for over 100 years, but truly this match proved how true it is."

The Pioneer said the Indians had managed to snatch the mantle of "immortality" from the all-conquering Australians.

"The Australians still remain the best team on the planet but, on Thursday, they looked mortal as 11 inspired underdogs took them on as equals -- for once," the newspaper said.

"It was a victory born out of self-belief, of perseverance, of dogged determination in the face of certain defeat."

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