Although Adam Zampa stole the show with his brilliant leg-spin bowling in Delhi which gave Australia their first series-win in more than two years, another spinner quietly but effectively put in another fine performance which largely went unnoticed.
Ravindra Jadeja was India’s star with the ball, delivering a crucial 10-over spell – not only picking two key Australian wickets but also keeping the batsmen on a tight leash bowling a restrictive line and length at a critical juncture in the match.
Jadeja made two potentially match-changing breakthroughs at two significant moments in the match.
The Australian openers had raced to 73 in 14 overs and looked in ominous touch. They had already put together a match-winning 193-run stand in Ranchi and the stage was set for both of them to get a big score. The three pacers – Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami had failed to provide the initial breakthrough. So had the lead spinner, Kuldeep Yadav. He had been taken for 17 in his 2 overs.
Jadeja, under pressure, was introduced into the attack. He produced a ripper- the third delivery of his spell - to get past the defense of Finch. India broke the opening stand and breathed a sigh of relief. Jadeja was their man.
The left-arm orthodox bowler continued to bowl a tight line and length even as the other Indian bowlers were leaking runs from the other end. Jadeja just conceded 19 runs in his first 5 overs. The bowlers from the other end (Kuldeep, Kedar Jadhav and Shami) went for 36. While Jadeja did not concede even a single boundary in this spell, the others collectively bowled 5 boundary deliveries. It was Jadeja who was keeping India in the match and containing the Australian pair of Khawaja and Peter Handscomb who were threatening to take the match away from India.
Bhuvneshwar had dismissed the centurion Khawaja but that had got the dangerous Glenn Maxwell to the crease. Just for perspective, Maxwell has the highest strike rate in ODI cricket history (min. 2000 runs). At 175 for 2 in 33 overs, the platform was laid for him to launch into the Indian attack. Jadeja was called for his second spell. And he delivered again as Maxwell holed out to extra cover trying to clear the infield for just 1. This was a huge moment in the match.
This triggered an Australian collapse and they could only muster 70 runs in their last 10 overs, losing 5 wickets.
Jadeja conceded just 11 runs in his final 3 overs. He finished his spell of 10 overs giving away just 45 runs.
On a day when India’s main spinner went for 74 in his quota of 10 overs, it was Jadeja’s economical bowling which kept Australia to a manageable total.
He bowled as many as 27 dot balls – i.e. four and a half overs of dot deliveries and was taken for just three boundaries.
Jadeja has an excellent economy rate of 4.90 in the middle overs (11-40) – that is the period in which he completed his quota today too – since 2017. It is better than the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal (4.93) and Kedar Jadhav (5.05).
He was also in good form with the ball in 2018, picking 14 wickets in 8 ODIs at an average of 24.57 and economy of 4.59. In fact, he was India’s most restrictive bowler (after Bumrah; min.8 innings) and had a better economy rate than Kuldeep and Chahal amongst others in the calendar year.
Although Jadeja has been a patch of the batsman he was (career batting average of 29.92 and strike rate of 84.23) since 2017 (186 runs in 14 innings at 16.90 at a rate of 78.15), he still excels in two disciplines and can be qualified as an all-rounder courtesy his fielding. Jadeja is one of the best fielders in the world and not only saves a number of runs for India but has also effected a great run-out or taken a miraculous catch, altering the course of the match.
This makes a compelling case for him to make the World Cup squad in England as a back-up spinner/ bowling all-rounder. With Chahal going for some runs in his last few outings for India (economy rate of 5.5 in his last 10 ODI innings), Jadeja’s inclusion would give the Indian bowling unit the necessary cushion.
For a player who has been in and out of the Indian ODI XI (15 matches of a potential 33 since 2018) in the last few years, Jadeja has delivered with the ball more often than not when given an opportunity.
He is the kind of team man India needs on that plane to England.