Australia win by 25 runs as India slide into oblivion, go 4-0 up in the series
In one of the most dramatic turnarounds of recent times, Australia, who had all but lost the game, made a stunning comeback, to beat India 25 by runs in the 4th ODI of the VB Series 2016, thereby extending their lead to 4-0 in the five-match series.
That Virat Kohli is now just one century behind Sachin Tendulkar’s record for most hundreds while chasing (15) for India wasn’t the only thing that drew a similarity between the two Indian greats in this game. The game reminded one of those Tendulkar-dependent times when the team tried to reap off his benefits and yet failed to win matches once he was out.
There were two men here, of course, Shikhar Dhawan being the other who hit a magnificent 126, only to watch the lower order behave like kindergarten children running out of their classes after school.
It was a change of script in a series that has been a fabled tale so far at the Manuka Oval, Canberra, as it was Australia who batted first after winning the toss, and it never looked like David Warner was away from competitive cricket for a week or so, as he and his opening partner Aaron Finch went on with merciless hitting, helped by a pretty ordinary Indian bowling, unflinching from their sorry performances right throughout the series.
Warner and Finch massacred 187 runs in 29 overs, taking every Indian bowler to the cleaners on a flat Canberra pitch. The left-hander completed his 50 off just 46 balls and continued piling on runs, as he took Ravindra Jadeja- India’s prime bowler from the last game- for three boundaries in his first over.
The father to two daughters looked well set to compile yet another hundred when he played on to a relatively short Ishant Sharma delivery and departed for 93. His right-handed partner didn’t flinch though as he went on to complete his 1st ODI hundred against India and his 7th overall.
The Melbourne Renegades batsman was undone by Umesh Yadav when the former ballooned a ball up in the air, that was caught by Ishant at mid-wicket. Finch made 107. That brought out the Australian captain, Steve Smith, to the crease who played as if he was a finisher, teaching his Indian counterparts how to accelerate between overs 30-40.
Smith played a blitzkrieg innings of 51 off just 29 with 4 fours and 2 sixes, and despite Mitch Marsh- who was promoted to No. 3- looking out of sorts, kept attacking the wayward Indian bowling.
Maxwell- the finisher
India looked like making a comeback in the final five overs of the innings when some disciplined bowling by Yadav and Ishant accounted for quick wickets- that of Marsh, Smith, George Bailey, and James Faulkner- but if Smith played a blitzkrieg, what Glenn Maxwell did was lightning.
The finisher, continued from where he left off in the last innings- when he tried to hit a six to get a hundred with just one run to win- and finished the Australian innings with finesse through an innings that had a mixture of ramp shots, the Maxwell-esque reverse sweep, and heaves and pulls over the deep. He was dismissed for 41 off 20 on the last ball of the innings by Ishant, but not before he had churned out 18 runs off the over, thereby propelling the hosts to 348/8.
With the highest chase ever in Australia and the highest one outside India on offer, Rohit Sharma, perhaps India’s batsman of the series took the onus upon himself to let the Australians know that India were up for the challenge.
Sharma smashed 41 off 25 with 2 fours and 3 sixes, that included a 16-run over at the expense of Kane Richardson. Ironically, the Indian batsman got out on the last ball of that very over, when he was caught down the leg side by the wicketkeeper, Matthew Wade.
The pedestal set up by Sharma was capitalized upon beautifully by the Delhi duo, who through their immaculate strokeplay mixed with the gentle touch play, toyed with the Australian bowling and continued the run-fest that the game had become.
Dhawan returned to form comprehensively and chose the apt occasion to do so, as India were staring down at a whitewash at the hands of the hosts. The duo shared a 212-run partnership for the second wicket in just 182 balls, a period that for the first time in the VB Series saw India in a winning position.
Dhawan hit a magnificent 126 off just 113 balls, an innings studded with 14 boundaries and two sixes, and during his innings it looked as if the balls were meant to leave his bat and find the ropes, waving at the Australian fielders as it passed them by.
In the process, he also crossed 3000 career runs in ODIs for India.
Kohli, on the other hand, was at his attacking best- swiveling in his crease, storming on to the front foot, punching off the back foot, and in the process almost forcing Australia to shut shop besides shutting some mouths as well.
En route his 106 from 91, Kohli became the fastest to 25 ODI hundreds and is now just one hundred away from equalling Sachin Tendulkar's record of having made the most number of hundreds(16) while chasing- a tally that now stands at 15.
Australia storm through
India were cruising to victory till the 38th over, when perhaps Australia’s most experienced bowler in their line-up in the shorter format, John Hastings, got Dhawan caught at point by Bailey. This was followed by the Indian captain MS Dhoni nicking behind to Wade for a third ball duck.
While these two wickets opened the window for the hosts, they broke through it within a span of 3 overs, starting with the other set batsman, Kohli, who drove a full pitched delivery straight into Smith’s hands at mid-off, reducing India to 278/4.
As if three wickets in succession weren’t enough, a young Gurkeerat Mann showed bravery and chivalry in consecutive balls, as after launching Nathan Lyon over mid-off for a boundary off the first ball of the 41st over, he top edged the next one to the fielder who ran to short fine leg to complete an easy catch.
A brave Ajinkya Rahane walked out despite having stitches to his hand resulting from an injury while fielding, but could not put up the efforts on the field as he nicked off to slips, and suddenly, India were six down.
The pressure of a tough situation got to Rishi Dhawan as well, as he followed Mann’s steps by haphazardly launching a ball into the deep, albeit in the opposite direction to where he had intended, and offered some catching practice to Warner at deep midwicket.
From 277/1, India had slumped to 308/7, and all eyes were not set on Jadeja, who was yet to prove his credentials as a genuine all-rounder. But it wasn’t to be, as he ran out of partners, and the bowlers- Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, and Ishant Sharma- fell like a deck of cards. India were bowled out for 323, still 25 short of Australia’s 348/8.
Kane Richardson was the wrecker in chief for the hosts as he picked up a five-wicket haul in no time, as was the one who propelled the Indian collapse. He was awarded the man of the match award for his figures of 10-0-68-5.
India lost their last nine wickets for just 46 runs and a game that was in India’s lap right from the start, was given away by their own players.
Brief Scores: Australia (toss) 348/8 (Finch 107, Warner 93, Ishant 4/77) beat India 323 (Dhawan 126, Kohli 106, Richardson 5/68) by 25 runs.
Man of the match: Kane Richardson
View the full scorecard here.