Yet another ODI and yet another win for the Indian juggernaut!! A win fashioned by India’s new-found strength, bowling! How appropriate that they provided India’s 500th ODI win in its history!
India beat Australia by 8 runs at Nagpur, to take a 2-0 lead in the five match series.
India batted first on a dry surface, which the team expected to aid spin as the game progressed. With the help of a masterly hundred from Virat, India posted a competitive score of 250 runs. Australia chased the score valiantly, but fell short by 8 runs. Lack of big scoring batsmen in the top order continues to plague this Aussie team.
What worked and what didn’t?
It was Virat Kohli show all the way, with some help from Vijay Shankar. On a dry pitch, it takes batsmen of the highest caliber to score a hundred. Virat, who is the best in this generation, is one such master. He played the fast men and the spinners with equal ease, putting up a batting display that others can only look at with awe. Vijay Shankar played a good hand, scoring a rapid fire 46 runs. This is Vijay Shankar’s best knock till date and it showcased his ability as a hard-hitting lower-middle order batsman. It solved a big riddle for me, as to what his strength was. However, he has limited time before the World cup to prove that he can be consistent.
Virat will be very concerned at the lack of any contribution from the tailenders. Indian tailenders have historically been poor with the bat. But in this age, where teams bat till No.9 or No.10, they are a big sore point for India. The fact that they can’t even hold an end, will make it difficult for a top order batsmen to score runs in their company. I don’t think Virat can solve this problem for this World cup, as those tailenders are our best bowlers.
Shikar Dhawan looked in reasonable touch, but was far from his best. He is another question mark in front of Virat. However, if one followed Shikar’s career, he comes to life in big tournaments. So, Virat would keep faith and expect him to be ready, when the World cup starts.
Indian bowling was the reason why India won this game in Nagpur. Bumrah and Kuldeep were the standout bowlers. When the game was progressing, the commentators continued to say that Bumrah was not looking at his best. His speeds were certainly in the mid 130s, but giving away just 29 runs and picking 2 crucial wickets at the end is close to his best in effectiveness. Bumrah is the Virat of Indian bowling. His ability to pick wickets at the death and keep the batsmen on a tight leash, is a priceless gift for the Indian team.
Kuldeep was equally impressive with the ball. The way he kept tossing up the ball, despite being hit around, showed that he has the heart of a spinner. One has seen so many spinners flatten their trajectory, once they get hit for big runs in an over. But not Kuldeep. He kept tossing the ball up and was duly rewarded with three wickets as his spell progressed. Wickets win matches!
Despite the work of Bumrah and Kuldeep, the Indian team needed a hero to bowl the last over and defend 11 runs. That hero turned out to be the unlikeliest of them all. Vijay Shankar, who had bowled an expensive first over, was entrusted to defend these 11 runs and win the game for India. Boy, did he do a great job! Vijay bowled three deliveries on the target and picked up 2 wickets to seal the deal for his country. In doing so, he displayed his mental strength, which is another key facet of this Indian team. Well done, Vijay!!
On a pitch that favored the spinners, ironically, it was the indefatigable fast man, Pat Cummins, who stole the show. He seems to relish the challenge of bowling in such unfavorable conditions and mastering them. Words are limited to praise him!!
Lyon bowled well on this pitch. However, the Aussies would have expected a few more wickets from him. Zampa had an off day and went for plenty of runs. Virat was far too strong an opponent for him today. Maxwell bowled his off-spinners well and managed to keep the scoring reasonably down. But, Finch would have expected his spinners to pick more wickets and a much lower strike rate. On this dry surface, getting 4 wickets after giving away 149 runs, is hardly the collective performance that the Captain would have expected from his spinners.
However, as a unit, the Aussie bowlers did well to keep India down to a score of 250 runs.
Aussies fell short of their target by a slim margin of 8 runs. But this does not mean that their batting unit did their best. If you take one look at the scorecard, you will see that most of the top order got a start, but failed to kick on and get that match winning hundred. This lack of big scoring top order batsmen is the reason for Australia’s woeful record in the ODI matches over the past 12 to 18 months.
Finch, after a long time, got off to a good start against the Indian pace bowlers. Khawaja and Finch put on a good opening partnership of 83 runs and laid the platform for the chase. However, the Aussies lost 4 wickets for the next 50 odd runs. Australia needed one of those to bat till the end.
Alongside Cummins, Marcus Stoinis is another big-hearted player in this Australian line-up. He fields and catches brilliantly, bowls effectively whenever he is called upon and bats well to keep Australia in the game. In Nagpur as well, he combined with Handscomb to take Australia closer to the target. He will be disappointed at the wild slog he played off the first ball of the last over. Vijay bowled an innocuous delivery that Stoinis could have hit straight over the bowler or mid-on. Rather, he swung across the line wildly and was adjudged LBW. Brain fade, may be!
Handscomb is another player, who seems to relish the role of a bride’s maid and not the role of a bride. Australia will look at him to graduate and take his team home. Along with Stoinis, he too looked very comfortable at the crease. But a great piece of work from Jadeja, saw him short of the crease, run out.
Having said all the above, this was a target that the Australian batsmen should have chased. They have only themselves to blame for this loss!
Vijay Shankar became a hero overnight, after being pilloried by one and all earlier. He still has to prove his worth consistently to be touted as an all-rounder. Based on what I have seen so far; he is certainly not a 10 over bowler. Virat has a few questions to answer, before he can finalize his first 11 and 15 for the World cup. Bhuvi’s recent loss of form is a big blow for India. He could have played the all-rounder role and allowed India to play Shami and Bumrah as the pure fast bowlers.
Australia need big scoring batsmen in their top order to increase their effectiveness in the World cup. They will look to Smith and Warner to be those batsmen. That is a big hope. Otherwise, these current batsmen should put their head down and make their innings count.
For detailed scorecard of this match, please visit Cricinfo