Raipur, Sep 29: Star all-rounder Irfan Pathan showcased his finishing skills with the bat with an unbeaten 12-ball 37 as India Legends defeated Australia Legends by five wickets to enter the final of the Road Safety World Series 2022 on Thursday (September 29) at Raipur's Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Cricket Stadium.
Irfan's explosive cameo in the death overs and Naman Ojha's unbeaten anchor's innings of 90 off 62 deliveries guided the Sachin Tendulkar-led side to an emphatic win over Shane Watson & Co. in a game that lasted for two days due to rain interruption.
The high-stakes contest between old rivals - which was scheduled to be held on Wednesday - was shifted to the next day after 17 overs of play was only possible. With 36 runs needed off 18 deliveries, Ojha smashed five sixes while Irfan hit four maximums as the duo shared a stand of 50 off just 22 balls.
In the run chase of 172 in 120 balls, India Legends were off to a cautious start as Ojha opened the innings with Sachin Tendulkar. The duo shared a stand of 38 runs for the first wicket. Tendulkar, however, was dismissed cheaply for 10 in the powerplay. The Mumbaikar tried an innovative shot leaving his leg stumps exposed to get bowled. India lost their second wicket when Suresh Raina was dismissed by Jason Krejza by getting caught at long-off for 11.
All-rounder Yuvraj Singh walked into the middle and joined Ojha to steady the ship. Ojha notched up his half-century off 35 balls by hammering Dirk Nannes for back-to-back sixes. His partnership of 61 runs with Yuvraj brought the Indians back in the game. But the dismissals of Yuvraj (18), Stuart Binny (2) and Yusuf Pathan (1) in quick successions brought the Aussies back in the game.
When Irfan walked into the middle, the hosts found themselves in trouble as the equation came down to 36 off 18 balls but the 18th over, bowled by Reardon yielded 12 runs, and the momentum shifted in India's favour as they required 24 off 12 balls.
In the 19th over, Irfan then smashed Nannes for a hat-trick of sixes as 21 came from that over and India needed only three from the final over. Irfan smashed a boundary on the second ball of the final over bowled by Brett Lee and India won the game.
Earlier, batting first Australia Legends posted a competitive 171 for the loss of five wickets in the match that was completed on Thursday after rain prevented any resumption of play after the 17th over of Australia's innings.
Before the rain interruption, the Shane Watson-led side had posted 136 for the loss of five wickets after being put in to bat first. Cameron Green (6* off 6) and Brad Haddin (1* off 2), who were present in the middle when the play was stopped, resumed batting for Australia on the next day and the duo smashed 35 runs in the next three overs. White remained unbeaten on 38 off 18 balls while Haddin added 11 runs to his total.
On Wednesday, Indian bowlers made a comeback in the middle overs and picked up wickets at regular intervals after Australia Legends were off to a brisk start in the powerplay.
Captain Shane Watson and his opening partner Alex Doolan hit some lusty blows inside the first six overs and made good use of the fielding restrictions on a batting-friendly surface. The Aussies were cruising towards a big total as the openers shared the partnership of 60 runs in 7 overs.
Leg-spinner Rahul Sharma provided India Legends with the much-needed breakthrough by ending Watson's knock for 30. Raina - who was at his electric best in the field - took Watson's catch. Later in the evening, Raina took a stunning catch diving towards his left at the point region to end dangerous Ben Dunk's knock for 46. Dunk's innings of 26 balls were laced with five fours and two sixes before getting dismissed by Abhimanyu Mithun. He had also picked up the wicket of Nathan Reardon in the same over.
Yusuf Pathan also struck twice in an over and sent Doolan (35 off 31 balls) and Callum Ferguson (10 off 8 balls) and put a brake on the run flow. Mithun and Yusuf's bowling helped the Indians stage a comeback and prevented the Aussies from posting a big total.