Australia overhauled the 76-run target in just 18.5 overs when Marnus Labuschagne (28*) hit the winning runs off R Ashwin. The visitors lost Usman Khawaja on the second delivery of the chase but ensured no further damage on the surface which had bite for the slower bowlers. While the scoreboard makes a comfortable reading, it wasn’t as one-sided it seems.
The sample size is just little under 19 overs but this Australian chase can be easily broken into two halves. It was India all the way in the first 10 overs where both Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja hit the right lengths and kept troubling both Travis Head (49*) and Labuschagne who looked a tad tentative. There were a few loud shouts, plenty of deliveries turning square and the visitors were very cautious at 13/1 after 10 overs. Labuschagne was 7 off 36 and Head was just 5 off 22.
It all changed after that 10-over-mark when the ball, after failing the gauge test, had to be changed. During that little break, a message came out for the Aussie batters and the runs came at a brisk pace after that. 13 came off the first over after the ball change and 9 more came off the Jadeja over that followed.
All off a sudden, Indian bowlers erred with their lengths and were way too full and dished out far too many under the bat. Visitors, Head in particular, didn’t mind the length as he stepped on the accelerator and scored his next 44 runs off just 31 balls. Didn’t shy away from going aerial in the process and the body language of the hosts, which was very energetic for the first ten overs, went flat and the shoulders started dropping and hands returned on the waist.
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Ashwin would continue to complain about the ball but his request fell on deaf ears as none of the umpires seemed interested. Was it just the ball change or the change in approach by Head, after the 10-over-mark, which put the bowlers off their mark?
When both Head and Labuschagne were defending, all was happening off the surface but the moment long strides came out and positive footwork was on display, the spin-twins - Ashwin and Jadeja - struggled to get their lengths right.
Apart from the ball change, moment of the day came in ninth over of the innings by Ashwin. The offie was in the mood today and was rushing with his deliveries. The only delay between his deliveries was due to Rohit Sharma’s excessive shining of the cherry. The 36-year-old would even bowl with just two-three steps and got into Labuschagne’s head, again.
The right-hander pulled out, took his time and made Ashwin wait. When he was ready, Ashwin did his gig and made Labuschagne wait. The umpires got into the act, Rohit joined in from the circle and Head was not too far behind either. Did the altercation wake the Australian pair up? Or was it the ball change which put India off their marks on this wearing strip?
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Difficult to answer that but the runs were just not enough to make a contest out of this one. All it needed was one cameo to seal the deal and put the opposition on the mat. It came from Head who has now given Australia the psychological edge going into the final match of the series in Ahmedabad. The visitors trail 1-2 and have set up a mouth-watering series finale in six days’ time.
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