India beat Australia by record margin

Mohali, October 21:

A sizzling performance by Zaheer Khan in the second Test today helped India to a 320-run win against Australia and go 1-0 up in the four-Test series.

The left-arm paceman picked up three wickets, two of them on the trot, on the fifth and final day to wrap up the Australian second innings on 195 with more than two sessions to spare. This was India’s biggest Test win by runs ever, bettering the 280-run mark against South Africa in 1996.

For Australia, it was only their second defeat in 28 Tests since their 2-1 loss in the 2005 Ashes series against England, and the biggest against India since Melbourne in 1977. “We were outplayed in all departments of the game,” Australian skipper Ricky Ponting admitted.

Zaheer’s effort capped an outstanding performance by off-spinner Harbhajan Singh (3-36) and fast bowler Ishant Sharma (2-42) who gave India the crucial breakthroughs on Monday. India also owed the win to their batsmen, who piled up 469 in their first innings before declaring on 314-3 in the second. The retiring Sourav Ganguly struck 102, Sachin Tendulkar a record-breaking 88 and stand-in skipper Mahendra Dhoni a sparkling 92 to lay the winning platform for the hosts.

The Australians struggled with the bat on a surface that Indian batsmen thrived on, the only saving grace being Shane Watson’s knock. Their bowlers, led by an off-colour Brett Lee, also looked clueless against the Indian run machine. Dhoni, named man of the match, said the victory was very satisfying as every member of the team made some contribution.

Resuming the day on 141-5 while chasing an insurmountable target of 516, the Australians tried to delay the inevitable but not for long. Zaheer struck in his very first over of the day, removing overnight batsman Brad Haddin (37) with a ball that crashed into the middle and off-stump.

Zaheer followed it up with two wickets in two balls in his very next over. Cameron White (one) got an outside edge which was taken by Dhoni diving to his right behind the stumps. Lee saw his off-stump uprooted by a searing delivery that nipped in sharply.

Michael Clarke (69), who put on 84 runs for the sixthth wicket with Haddin, tried to defy the fired-up Indian attack, reaching his ninth Test half-century in process. But he was the last man out when he edged one to Virender Sehwag off debutant leg-spinner Amit Mishra who finished with seven wickets.

The third Test of the Border-Gavaskar series will be played in New Delhi from October 29 to November 2 followed by the fourth and final Test match in Nagpur from November 6-10.