A day that threatened to be Australia’s for the majority of the first innings, slipped out of their grasp like quicksand in a small matter of 12 overs.
A prolific all-round performance saw India seal the five-match series 3-0 with two more games to go. India will now be eyeing for a clean sweep, which looks quite achievable. After a disheartening campaign in the first two games, this was a do-or-die encounter for Australia and needed a win at any cost in order to stay alive in the tournament. Indian bowlers once again turned the tide and tightened the noose around Australia in the last 12 overs.
A One-Day International (ODI) game has different phases of run-scoring. Australia did almost everything right in the first two phases, but failed terribly in the final stage of the innings. In a must-win game for Australia, Aaron Finch made a comeback to the side after nursing a calf injury. Australia won the toss asked India to the field, Virat Kohi didn’t look disappointed with the decision as he rightly anticipated the surface to assist batting under the lights.
Finch’s return resolved Australia’s top-order woes, as he blazed his way to eighth ODI ton. David Warner and Finch got a cautious start and negotiated the new ball with care. Finch stitched a crucial partnership with Steve Smith after Hardik Pandya scalped Warner’s wicket for 42.
The 154-run stand between Smith and Finch laid the foundation for a massive Australian score. Just when things were running out of control for Virat Kohli, wrist spinners weaved magic by chipping in with crucial wickets. Kuldeep Yadav got the better of Finch and Smith while Yuzvendra Chahal outfoxed Glenn Maxwell for third consecutive time in the series.
Australia slipped to 243 for 4 after being well placed at 224 for 1 at one stage. After losing three big wickets, Australia’s hope of getting close to 350 took pounding. As per the current standards, a team is expected to get at least 100 runs from last 12 overs with eight wickets in hand. But, this wasn’t Australia’s day. They just managed 69 runs from last 74 balls and lost five wickets in the course, which affected their run massively.
Travis Head failed to pick a change in pace from Jasprit Bumrah while Manish Pandey’s incredible athleticism at long-off boundary ended Peter Handscomb’s run. Marcus Stoinis stood his ground but lacked support from the other end.
Indian bowlers did extremely well in pulling things back in the ultimate stages and didn’t let Australia cross the 300-run mark. Australia were certainly short of 45-50 runs from what they eventually achieved, which made the ultimate difference. Although the pitch had a lot for the batsmen, but a target of somewhere around 340 would have given Australia the liberty to attack with the ball and simultaneously put pressure on Indian batsmen.
Failure with the bat cost Australia the first two games, where their bowlers fared reasonably well. Matches between India and Australia are known to be high-scoring ones in the recent times, which didn’t happen in the first two games. Their batting was not up to the mark and made few changes in the third encounter. They did set a solid platform to launch an attack in the death overs, but their inability to finish it off didn’t help them achieve fruitful results.
Chasing 294 still requires some serious batting, and Australian bowlers needed early wickets in order to put any kind of pressure on India. Indian openers got off to a flying start and ensured Australia didn’t have a way back into the game with the new ball. Rohit Sharma took on Australian bowlers with immense confidence while Ajinkya Rahane continued to impress with the bat.
The duo added 139 runs at the top after which, both the openers were dismissed in quick succession. India’s No. 4 has been misfiring for a while now. In order to keep up the run-rate Hardik Pandya was promoted at 4. Pandya kept punishing the loose deliveries and the ones pitched in his zone.
Master of chases Virat Kohli witnessed a rare failure when he mistimed a delivery from Agar to long-off. Kedar Jadhav squandered another golden opportunity of making an impact in the middle-order and floundered for 2. He got two good starts in the first two games, but failed to convert and then this failure. With KL Rahul waiting for his chances on the bench, the race for the middle-order is just getting tougher.
India needed 88 runs from as many deliveries when Manish Pandey walked out to accompany Pandya. Pandey looked bereft of oomph in first two games and certainly needed some runs under his belt to make an impact. He stuck to his guns and with Pandya playing to his strength at the other end, there was no need to hurry.
Pandya didn’t let the asking rate drop down and kept hitting odd boundaries every now and then. He showed that he is well capable of building an innings and his game is not all about power-hitting. He took calculated risks and picked his bowlers. Pandey, on the other hand, was equally supportive and did a fine job in carrying the team over the line.
Pandya has been on a roll in the tournament; he has scored runs as well as picked crucial wickets. He is certainly providing India with a rare option of an impactful all-rounder and continues to grow with every outing. For Australia, they will look to battle for pride in the next two games as the series is now a dead-rubber for them.