Mumbai - Australian captain Ricky Ponting on Friday lauded Indian master Sachin Tendulkar even as the injury-plagued world champions celebrated a brilliant one-day win.
The second-string Aussies, depleted by injuries to nine players, warded off Tendulkar's magical 175 off 141 balls to snatch a thrilling three-run win here on Thursday night.
Tendulkar, faced with Australia's daunting total of 350-4, smashed 19 boundaries and four sixes in his 45th one-day century to bring India agonisingly close to an unexpected win.
Ponting, delighted at how his young team responded to the challenge to take a 3-2 lead in the seven-match series, praised Tendulkar's effort as "one of the great one-day innings" he had seen.
"When you get 175 in a one-day game, it's not very often you don't win," the Australian captain said.
"He's played a lot of good innings against Australia over the years, but you don't see something like this every day.
"It was a terrific innings, especially when he lost a few wickets around him early. He hit almost every ball in the middle of the bat.
"His team needed him to play that way and he was outstanding, it was one of the great one-day innings that I've seen." Tendulkar, 36, the world's leading batsman in both Test and one-day cricket, agreed it was one of his better innings, but was disappointed India fell short at the end.
"I would say it was one of my better ones, but we should have won," said Tendulkar.
"I was striking the ball pretty well. That we were chasing 351 meant there was constant pressure on us to keep the run-rate up. We managed to do that and took the game quite close." Australia, depleted from the start of the tour due to injuries to one-day regulars Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Callum Ferguson and Nathan Bracken, have seen five more players return home with various niggles.
With Brett Lee, Peter Siddle, James Hopes and Bracken missing and Mitchell Johnson rested for the game, Australia fielded a virtual second-string bowling attack -- and still won.
The tourists zoomed to the massive total after a first-wicket stand of 145 between Shaun Marsh, who hit a career-best 112 and Shane Watson (93) in excellent batting conditions.
"After everything that's happened over the last couple of weeks, for us to keep finding ways to win games says a lot about the team, a lot about the players and the way we go about it," a beaming Ponting said.
"I actually asked the guys for a little bit extra in this game, asked them to be really brave and to play the best form of cricket they possibly could and just back themselves at every opportunity.
"It was a great day for us. I can tell you that the guys were as excited as we have been for any win that we've had." The final two matches in the riveting series will be played in Guwahati on Sunday and Mumbai on Wednesday.