India ended a tumultuous tour with a dramatic, Sachin Tendulkar-inspired 2-0 limited-overs finals series win over World Cup champion Australia.
|Victory: Indian players celebrate [AFP]|
Tendulkar posted 91 in India's 258 for nine after winning the toss and batting on Tuesday, following his match-winning 117 not out in the game 1 at Sydney.
Praveen Kumar took 4-46, including Adam Gilchrist (2) and Ricky Ponting (1) to have Australia reeling at 8-2 before the hosts forced it into the last over.
Irfan Pathan sealed the nine-run win, removing Nathan Bracken (1) and ending James Hopes' defiant 63-run knock within four balls as Australia was bowled out for 249 in 49.4 overs.
India dominated in stages and took wickets in batches to stem Australia's momentum.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni praised his young team for holding its composure amid the controversies involving umpiring decisions and the racism allegations that swirled around Harbhajan Singh for the last two months.
Dhoni said it galvanized his squad, and made Harbhajan more determined to perform on the field.
"Right now we're playing really good cricket,'' he said.
"This series win will give us confidence, give the young guys security and confidence to know they're part of the team.''
Harbhajan removed both Matthew Hayden (55) and Andrew Symonds (42) within a few balls to end an innings-salvaging fourth-wicket partnership, leaving just too much for Hopes and the tailenders.
Hopes hit a six in the penultimate over, leaving Australia needing 14 runs from six balls to level the series and force a third-match in Adelaide.
But Pathan held his nerve, taking his first wickets of the finals series to spark Indian jubilation after a long tour that included a test-series loss to Australia.
Gilchrist's last international match ended disappointingly when he feathered Kumar to Dhoni on the third ball of Australia's chase.
Skipper Ponting mistimed a pull shot off the same bowler to mid-on two overs later to end his frustrating summer.
"The day has come that I've played my last game with Gilly, that's a pretty sad moment, especially when it's a losing game,'' Ponting said.
"We've shared some amazing times. Would have been nice if we played some cricket fitting of his farewell.''
Clarke survived a confident appeal for lbw next ball and Hayden was dropped when he edged Sreesanth and Dhoni put down a chance as he dived in front of first slip and deflected a ball onto the point of Tendulkar's shoulder.
Tendulkar left the field immediately and did not return.
Kumar got some revenge when he bowled Clarke for 17 in the ninth over to have Australia in trouble at 32-3.
One of the strangest incidents in a contentious tour occurred soon after.
Symonds slams streaker
A naked streaker ran onto the field and toward Symonds at the non-striker's end when the Australian allrounder shoulder-charged him to the ground.
Symonds, who once considered playing rugby league for the Australian club the Brisbane Broncos, will not be charged following the incident.
A spokesman for the International Cricket Council said: "He is not going to be charged because he brought down a spectator who entered the ground."
|Crunch time: Andrew Symonds extends the long arm of the law [AFP]|
Although section 4.2 of the council's code of conduct says players may be punished for assaulting spectators, the spokesman would not elaborate when asked if his words meant players could try to bring down streakers.
The streaker, from Adelaide, was charged with disrupting the game and wilful obscene exposure.
He was at the Brisbane jail last night. A senior sergeant said he was not injured - apart from a bruised ego.
"I just spoke to him and he's all right, other than feeling like a goose," the officer said.
"He said it was a dare from his mates. He realises it was a pretty dumb thing to do. He's just spoken to his missus [by phone], so I don't think he's feeling too good now, but he'll be all right."
Peter Young, from Cricket Australia, said: "Symonds was out there doing his best to try to save and win a critical match. He doesn't deserve to be interrupted by spectators while he is trying to do that."
Ponting praises India
Putting that aside, Symonds and Hayden added 89 runs before Hayden was run out at the non-striker's end and Harbhajan trapped Symonds lbw and Australia slipped from 121-3 to 123-5.
Mike Hussey (44) put on 76 with Hopes before getting got a feint under edge to Sreesanth and was caught behind in the 42nd over.
"All credit has to go the Indians for the way they played over the last week, they deserve the trophy,'' said Ponting, who put down a difficult chance when Tendulkar was on 7 in a chance that could have altered the outcome.
Tendulkar shared a 94-run opening stand with Robin Uthappa (30) and a 54-run partnership for the third wicket with Yuvraj Singh, who returned to form with 38 from 33 balls.
But he was out nine runs short of a 43rd ODI century when he Ponting held a diving catch at short mid-on off Clarke's bowling.
The Australian pacemen had difficulty containing the Indian top order on a pitch ideally suited to batting, with Ponting relying on part-timer Clarke for 10 overs. He returned 3-52.
Bracken dismissed Pathan (12) and Dhoni (36) in the 48th over and Kumar (7) in the last to finish with 3-31.
The India squad will leave Australia on Wednesday.