SK Elite: Manish Pandey's dazzling century gets the better of Australia at Sydney
Maiden centuries in international cricket are particularly sweet for any young cricketer and even more so when it comes in a winning cause in a series where your team has found it hard to win games.
Manish Pandey’s superb 104 in the last ODI in the 5-match series against Australia in 2016 not only won India the game but also ensured that the team did not suffer a humiliating whitewash.
In the previous ODI, chasing a mammoth 349 in Canberra, India were cruising to a win with 72 needed off 75 balls following a superb partnership between Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli. However, the team somehow managed to collapse to 323 all out from 277 for 2.
Pandey’s knock in the 5th ODI ensured that there would be no repetition of what went down in Canberra in the previous game. Considering the fact that Pandey was playing in only his 4th one day international, he showed remarkable poise and game awareness to guide India to victory in a game that seemed to be slipping away.
In a particularly high scoring series where the batsmen ran amok, Australia posted 330 in 50 overs, thanks to centuries from David Warner and Mitchell Marsh. Actually, they could have scored much more had Jasprit Bumrah not pulled things back in the last few overs of the innings.
India started well with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan adding 123 in 18.2 overs but the quick fall of two wickets, including that of Virat Kohli, reduced India to 134 for 2. That is when Pandey came into bat and showed maturity and composure beyond his years to give Rohit Sharma able support as India mounted a serious assault on the big target.
Pandey looked confident from the start and kept finding the gaps with his crisp stroke play that kept the scoreboard moving.
In this regard, it is also necessary to keep in mind that although Pandey was playing only his 4th ODI, he had been an IPL veteran of sorts and had been the lynchpin of the Kolkata Knight Riders for some years.
In fact, he had famously scored 94 in the IPL final in 2014 to help chase down a target of 200 set by Kings XI Punjab and it seemed that the bigger stage of international cricket did not faze him at all. He knew what he had to do and set about doing exactly that. Such composure and awareness of the match situation is a rare gift and it was particularly welcome considering India’s embarrassing collapse in the previous ODI.
When Rohit Sharma was at the crease, Pandey was happy to play the supporting role but the former’s dismissal for 99 created an opening for Australia and Pandey had to guide India home in the company of MS Dhoni.
The men in blue still needed 100 to win off 91 deliveries and although it was a matter of simply playing calmly, the debacle of the previous ODI must have weighed heavily on the Indian psyche. That said, he had the Indian captain MS Dhoni for company, who is without a doubt, an ideal partner to have in tense run chases. However, Pandey was the set batsman and it was up to him to ensure that India did not botch another opportunity to win a game in the series.
Pandey ran hard and although he did not hit too many boundaries (8 fours and a solitary six) in his 104, he did not get bogged down. However, Dhoni was not able to play the sort of fluent innings that was the need of the hour and soon, the match seemed to be drifting away as India struggled to hit boundaries.
The last 4 had been hit by Pandey in the 42nd over and eventually, the equation came down to a stiff 35 in 3 overs. However, the 48th over saw India taking charge as Pandey hit a boundary off Scott Boland and Dhoni hit another to take 13 off the over, as the match turned in India’s way.
In the final over bowled by Mitchell Marsh, India needed to score 13 runs and after Marsh had bowled a wide, Dhoni smashed the next delivery over long off for six. However, he got out off the next ball and it was now all down to Pandey to score 6 off the last 4 deliveries.
There was no cause for panic as Pandey guided the very next delivery for a boundary past the wicketkeeper to bring up his century and put the match beyond Australia. As Steve Smith brought the field in, Pandey lofted the ball over the infield off the next delivery and completed a two to give India a well-deserved victory. In the process, he had also scored one of the best ODI hundreds by a young Indian in recent memory.