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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 10:23 GMT
Australia draw first blood
VB Series, first final, Melbourne: Australia 224-3 beat India 222 all out by seven wickets
Australia lead best-of-three finals series 1-0

Sachin Tendulkar
Tendulkar fell early as India descended to 75-6

Ricky Ponting led the way as Australia demoralised India by seven wickets in the first VB Series final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Set 223 to win after bowling India out with one over to spare, Australia cruised home with 59 balls remaining.

Ponting scored a majestic 88 off 80 balls, while opener Matthew Hayden contributed a valuable 50.

The result means India must win in Sydney on Sunday to take the finals series to a third leg.

Ponting's knock, which included seven fours and two sixes, evoked memories of his unbeaten 140 in the World Cup final. For India, the result was just as damning.

India skipper Sourav Ganguly was mindful not to insert Australia after winning the toss like he had done in Johannesburg last March.

But it took a record seventh-wicket partnership to dig India out of a deep hole after they had descended to 75-6 after 22 overs.

Hemang Badani (60 not out) and Ajit Agarkar (53) added 102 together to beat India's previous best stand for the wicket by two runs, scored against the same side in 1996.

Ian Harvey (centre) celebrates taking a wicket
Australia were all smiles early on with Harvey taking two wickets

The hosts dominated early on with short, fast bowling on a springy MCG pitch.

Virender Sehwag was cramped for room by a fierce riser from Jason Gillespie (2-39) in the third over and gloved behind. Three overs later, Sachin Tendulkar was clean bowled by Brett Lee (2-34) for eight.

VVS Laxman (24) provided a brief counter-attack, but fell meekly when driving Brad Williams to Andrew Symonds at backward point.

Ian Harvey, introduced in the 15th over, then tempted Rahul Dravid into a drive that was edged to Hayden, inserted into slip one ball prior.

Ganguly scratched around for six before edging Harvey (2-40) behind, and Yuvraj Singh (21) fell three balls later to the first of Lee's new spell.

It left India gasping for air, but Agarkar - who had scored only 22 runs in three VB Series innings thus far - grasped the initiative.

He subjected Symonds (0-47 off seven overs) to some terrific punishment, including a huge six one over after hitting Harvey for the same.

Badani carried on after his partner fell to Michael Clarke, losing his tailend support but remaining unbeaten to give India half a shout when at one stage they had none.

But it was a shout that was soon reduced to a whimper as Adam Gilchrist almost single-handedly sped Australia to 48 in the sixth over.

He paid for his voracity when holing out to Sachin Tendulkar off Lakshmipathy Balaji for a 20-ball 38.

Hayden and Ponting then added 139 in 25 overs to put the game out of India's reach, though both perished to catches late on as Balaji finished with figures of 3-52.

It was left to Damien Martyn and Symonds to take Australia over the line, though it was fitting from India's perspective that the winning runs came from four Yuvraj overthrows.

Australia: AC Gilchrist, ML Hayden, RT Ponting (capt), DR Martyn, A Symonds, MJ Clarke, SM Katich, B Lee, JN Gillespie, BA Williams, IJ Harvey.

India: SR Tendulkar, V Sehwag, VVS Laxman, R Dravid, SC Ganguly (capt), Yuvraj Singh, HK Badani, AB Agarkar, IK Pathan, A Kumble, L Balaji.

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