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Indian hero Harbhajan downs Aussies with bat and ball - by Kuldip Lal


MADRAS, India, March 22 (AFP) - India's bowling star Harbhajan Singh hit the winning runs amidst nerve-wracking tension to give the hosts a dramatic two-wicket win in the final Test against Australia here on Thursday.

The 20-year-old, who picked up 32 wickets in the three-Test series, cut Glenn McGrath for two runs to clinch a 2-1 series victory for India an hour after tea on the fifth day.

Harbhajan and debutant wicket-keeper Sameer Dighe, who remained unbeaten on 22, kept their cool after India, chasing a target to 155, collapsed to 151-8.

India appeared set for a win when Venkatsai Laxman's 66 lifted them to 101-2 midway through the post-lunch session.

But the valiant Australians grabbed six wickets for 50 runs, including frontline batsmen Sachin Tendulkar, captain Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, to launch a brilliant fightback.

As 45,000 boisterous home fans cheered every run, Dighe smashed Colin Miller for two consecutive fours and edged McGrath through the slips to narrow the margin.

Earlier, Harbhajan grabbed eight wickets, his fourth successive haul of six wickets or more, to bowl out Australia for 264 in their second innings an hour after the start.

Steve Waugh's men were not disgraced even in the defeat which denied them their ambition of winning Australia's first rubber on Indian soil in 32 years.

Waugh himself led the fight to the finish with a tumbling catch at mid-off to remove Dravid, while twin brother Mark took four catches, including a blinder at mid-wicket to get rid of the dangerous Laxman.

Miller finished with three for 41, while McGrath and Jason Gillespie picked up two wickets each.

It was a remarkable win by Sourav Ganguly's men after they were thrashed inside three days in the first Test at Bombay and then followed on 274 runs behind in the second at Calcutta.

India won the Calcutta Test by a convincing margin of 171 runs to level the series, breaking Australia's record streak of 16 consecutive Test wins.

Harbhajan, who claimed four wickets in the first Test and 13 in the second, took 15 here to win the man of the series award.

Only three other bowlers in the game's history have taken more wickets in a three-Test series.

England's George Lohmann leads the pack with 35 wickets against South Africa in 1895-96, followed by another Englishman Syd Barnes' 34 against the South Africans in 1912 and New Zealander Richard Hadlee's 33 against Australia in 1985-86.

It is also a record haul by an Indian bowler against Australia, surpassing Bishan Bedi's tally of 31 in a five-match away series in 1977.

Harbhajan claimed all the three remaining wickets on Thursday morning conceding just two runs from 8.5 overs.

India lost opener Shiv Das before lunch, top-edging an attempted hook off McGrath to give the fast bowler an easy return catch.

Sadagopan Ramesh helped Laxman add 58 for the second wicket when he was run out for 25.

India appeared comforably placed before Gillespie hit back by removing Tendulkar and Ganguly in successive overs.

Tendulkar, who made 17, tried to move away from a short delivery, but his outstretched bat took the edge and carried to Mark Waugh in the slips.

After hitting a streaky boundary through the slips, Ganguly fell next ball when another ambitious drive landed in the safe hands of Mark Waugh at second slip.

The Indian captain, who had a lean series, was jeered off the field after losing his wicket by a section of spectators sitting in the pavilion.







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