Having taken a comfortable 2-0 lead in the series after wins in Hyderabad and Nagpur, India suddenly find themselves facing the prospect of conceding the series after Australia have come roaring back in the last two games in Ranchi and Mohali. They succumbed to their worst-ever defeat (in terms of score defended) as Australia chased down 358 in Mohali to register their best-ever chase in ODI cricket and in Ranchi, the hosts had failed to overhaul a score of 313.
So, what has gone wrong in these games? Here’s a closer look at the banana peels India have slipped on and would look to avoid in the series decider in Delhi on Wednesday.
India just managed to score 58 in the first powerplay at Mohali and had scored just 40 in Ranchi.
Rohit Sharma likes to start off relatively cautiously and up the ante later. This may cost India on flat batting tracks, especially batting first when they are setting a target. Rohit played as many as 18 dot balls in the first 10 overs – that is 3 full overs. This included a maiden off Glenn Maxwell! His strike rate of 61.54 in this phase was poor. It is not surprising then to see that India ranks at number 5 amongst all teams in terms of run-rate in the first powerplay (from 1st January, 2018) – England (5.95), South Africa (5.21), Sri Lanka (5.05), Australia (4.85), India (4.74), New Zealand (4.61), West Indies (4.58), Pakistan (4).
ACCELERATION AT THE DEATH
The openers had given India a great start – they had raced to 200 for 1 after 32 overs in Mohali. India should have been able to score at a run-rate of 10 from there on – the wicket was flat and the ball was coming nicely onto the bat. But they managed just 158 from the last 18 overs at a run-rate of 8.78 which was clearly not good enough. Had they scored at a rate of 10, India would have scored 380 and may be applied more pressure on the Australian batsmen.
Although India are brilliant chasers, they have faltered in setting targets – especially with acceleration at the death – and this was the case in Mohali. They scored 91 in the last 10 when they should have aimed at 110-120.
LACK OF WICKETS IN SECOND POWERPLAY
India have been excellent, both in terms of wicket-taking prowess and economy in the middle overs (overs 10-40) in the recent past. In fact, they have picked the maximum wickets (4.53), on an average, amongst all teams in this over-phase since January, 2018. However, that was not the case in Mohali – Not only India conceded above 7 runs per over but also managed to pick just two wickets. This gave Australia a platform to launch into the target at the death.
THE ECONOMY OF JASPRIT BUMRAH
Jasprit Bumrah is rarely hit around the park. India is dependent on him to bowl the yorkers consistently at the death and keep the economy rate in check. In as many as 40 of the 47 ODIs, where he has bowled a minimum of 5 overs, he has an economy of less than 6 – these are staggering numbers. India have won 34 of these matches. Bumrah was taken for 7.13 runs per over in Mohali, including 16 off the 46th over! For once, India’s Mr. Dependable, had an off day with the ball.
THE TWO Ds – DRS AND THE DEW
66 were needed from 39 deliveries when Ashton Turner, on 41 then, was ruled not out on review for a caught behind off Yuzvendra Chahal. The replays confirmed a big spike but after the ball passed the bat. Virat Kohli was livid. That could have been the turning point of the match had the Decision Review System (DRS) review gone India’s way.
The Indian think-tank and the captain failed to assess the conditions in Ranchi and Mohali. While in the third ODI they expected dew but it never came, the situation reversed itself in Mohali – India did not expect dew and were severely hampered while defending the target as heavy dew affected how the bowlers gripped the white ball.
India were pretty ordinary in the field dropping a number of crucial catches and missing some relatively easy stumpings at important moments which could have altered the course and result of the match.
Rishabh Pant missed two potentially match-changing stumping chances – the first in 39th over when he let Peter Handscomb off the hook off Kuldeep Yadav – 111 were still need for a win, and then in the 44th over, when with 72 needed, he gave Turner another chance missing one down the leg off Yuzvendra Chahal.
Turner was given two more lives by the Indian fielders – with 20 needed off 23 he was dropped by Kedar Jadhav (off the bowling of Bhuvneshwar Kumar) at deep mid-wicket. India still had hope at that stage as Turner’s dismissal would have exposed the Australian tail.
He was again given a reprieve off the same bowler – this time by Dhawan who missed a dolly at mid-off. 14 were needed off 15 at that stage.
RECENT INCONSISTENCY OF THE OPENING PAIR
Rohit and Dhawan are amongst the greatest pair in ODI cricket history. India rely heavily on them for a good start but the duo (the 193 run-stand in Mohali notwithstanding) have been rather inconstant of late. They had put together just one fifty and hundred run partnership for the opening wicket in the last 17 ODIs (prior to Mohali). They aggregated just 487 runs for the opening wicket at a partnership average of 28.64 in this time-period. Ranchi was another failure in a stuff run chase where the opening stand usually sets the tempo for the batting to follow.
THE NUMBER 4 CONUNDRUM
The Number 4 position has been ailing the Indian ODI unit for a while. They haven’t been able to find a batsman who can score consistently and at a decent strike rate from this position. Rayudu failed in Ranchi and whereas he has been fairly consistent in the last year or so, his strike rate of 79.04 remains a big concern, especially given the fact that 300 would be par in England. It does not surprise then to see that India ranks at number 7 in terms of strike rate for Number 4 since January 2018 (80.85). With MS Dhoni to bat at Number 5 (strike rate of 74.96 since 2018), India are putting enormous pressure on the lower-order to accelerate at the death.