Winning the toss and opting to bat first, captain Aaron Finch spoke about wanting to get a big score on the board to defend it later. And opening the batting along with Usman Khawaja, they looked like doing just that as the initial proceedings were dominated by the duo.
Khawaja was the aggressor in the initial exchanges as the ball came on beautifully to the bat. Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar toiled hard, but the pitch offered little to no assistance as the boundaries came thick and fast.
Captain Kohli did not waste time bringing in Jasprit Bumrah (10-0-39-0) to the attack, well before the 10th over. The ploy seemed to work as he was shown respect by Khawaja and Finch, but importantly for Australia, did not give their wickets away.
Ravindra Jadeja (10-0-45-2) was introduced in the 15th over and right on cue, took the wicket of Finch, much to India’s relief. As the Australian captain departed for 27 off 43 balls, Peter Handscomb walked in at number three.
India opted to go with spin from Yadav, Jadeja and Jadhav for the next few overs but were unsuccessful in capitalizing on Finch’s wicket. Handscomb was picking the ball early and particularly dominated Yadav, as Khawaja brought up his 8th ODI fifty.
At the halfway mark, Australia were at 136/1, looking nailed on to cross at least 300 from that stage. But the Indian comeback was due to begin soon. Just as Khawaja got to a well-deserved century in the 33rd over and Australia were looking to up the ante, he was caught by Virat Kohli off the bowling of Bhuvneshwar Kumar (10-0-48-3).
During his innings, Khawaja overtook Andrew Symonds to now sit second on the list of Australians with most runs against India in a bilateral ODI series in India with 409 runs.
The dangerous Glenn Maxwell departed after that in the very next over, once again caught by Kohli, this time off the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja. The score read 178/3 and India were once again back in the game.
The hero of the previous match, Ashton Turner made a run-a-ball 20 before he was dismissed and having already lost Peter Handscomb before that, the visitors sought to salvage the innings.
They succeeded in doing that to an extent as Marcus Stoinis, and then Jhye Richardson after Stoinis was dismissed played some lofty shots to get the Australian total past 250, and then finished strong to end the innings on 272/9. Richardson’s 29 off 21 balls was the most telling contribution towards the latter part of the innings.
India needed to ensure they didn’t lost early wickets in reply, on a pitch where the best time to bat had already passed by in the first innings. As Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan started off, it looked like they had gotten their eye in by the end of the fourth over and were ready to launch.
But just then, Dhawan was out cheaply for 12 runs in trying to drive a Pat Cummins (10-1-38-2) delivery on the rise, only ending up knicking it to Alex Carey who was waiting in anticipation behind the stumps.
Local boy Virat Kohli walked in to huge cheers from the crowd and got off the mark straight away with two boundaries, wasting no time in ensuring that the scoreboard kept ticking.
The Indian captain looked in good knick with Rohit Sharma playing the role of a reliable foil at the other end. But just as it looked like they were going to stitch together a neat partnership, Kohli uncharacteristically gave his wicket away to a half-volley from Stoinis (4-0-31-2), edging it once again to Alex Carey as a hush fell upon the ground.
Rishabh Pant, another local lad joined Rohit at the crease, but he too was dismissed after getting his eye in for only 16 runs as India found themselves in all kinds of trouble at 91/3.
At the other end, Rohit was a constant, making sure he punished the bad balls and picked up singles and doubles off the better ones to keep the scoreboard ticking. Vijay Shankar took his time to get his eye in, and once he got an idea of the pitch, decided to target Adam Zampa (10-1-46-3) who was giving it a fair bit of flight.
But as Shankar endeavoured to hit Zampa for consecutive sixes, he fell in the deep for the same score as Pant, caught by the first innings’ centurion Usman Khawaja as Australia celebrated another wicket.
Matters did not change, as only 12 more runs were added between Shankar’s dismissal and that of Rohit, who had just brought up his fifty. Charging down the pitch trying to hit Zampa out of the park, he was beaten by the flight and ended up getting stumped. Four balls later, Jadeja was stumped too, this time while trying to defend.
At 132/6, it was down to the last moderately recognized pair of Jadhav and Bhuvneshwar to salvage the situation if India were to save the match.
With the pressure mounting, the pair put up a valiant fight, taking the total to 223 and putting together 91 runs between them. From an Indian perspective, what was good to see was that it was not just Jadhav who was the aggressor, but even Bhuvneshwar backed his skill as the Australian bowlers temporarily did not have an answer to the calculated aggression shown by the two.
However, just as it looked like India could seriously go ahead and challenge the total, Bhuvneshwar departed for a well-made 46 off 54 balls, which included three fours and two sixes.
Jadhav was out on the very next ball from Jhye Richardson (10-0-47-2), trying to pull the ball and holding out in the deep to Glenn Maxwell for 44.
From then on, it was just a matter of time before Australia wrapped up the win, with Shami the next to be dismissed. It was probably deserved that Stoinis got the wicket of Kuldeep off the very last ball of the innings, with India all-out for 237 runs. Australia won by 35 runs and completed a remarkable comeback in the series to win it 3-2, after being 2-0 down.
First Published: March 13, 2019, 9:32 PM IST