India won the third and final One Day International(ODI) match of the three match series to claim their first ever bilateral ODI series win against Australia.
On a sluggish pitch at Melbourne, India beat Australia by 7 wickets chasing down the target of 231 with relative ease. MS Dhoni top-scored with an unbeaten 87, ably supported by Kedar Jadhav (61 not out) and Virat Kohli (46).
What worked and What didn’t?
2018 and early 2019 have proved to be watershed years for Indian bowling. The unit has kept India competitive in every game that they have played in this time period. Gone are those days, when we would wait for the 50 overs to be complete to see what Indian batting had to chase. The Indian bowlers have become play makers!
Coming to this match at MCG, Bhuvi started off the good show picking up early wickets. Bhuvi is the latest of the Indian opening bowlers to have Finch’s wicket for his breakfast and lunch. Finch’s pads have been taking a pounding this whole season down under! After a brief period that went the Australian way, Chahal came to the party.
It has remained a mystery to me as to why Virat decided to break the duo of Chahal-Yadav in the recent ODI matches. Chahal came back to the team with a vengeance to prove his mettle to his captain. The flipper to get Handscomb, who is Australia’s best player of spin in this team, LBW was best of the lot. The one to deceive Marsh, the other good batter against spin, was worthy of his class as well. Chahal finished with 6 wickets and pretty much stopped the Aussies on their track. That is the impact that a wicket taking bowler can have on a batting side. Finally, we have an Indian team that puts a premium on bowling and are reaping rich rewards for it.
India chased down the low score with relative ease. Though the scores might say that they needed 49.2 overs to get it, India rarely looked in danger of losing this chase.
This Indian team chases scores, as though by muscle memory, I think. Players like Dhoni, Kohli, Kedar seem to relish the chase and they are so practiced in this art. Their bodies seem to know by instinct, which shot to play when, and against which bowler. Like hounds, they recognize the weak links and rarely let the prey go!
Dhoni’s comeback must be the most heartening thing for Virat and the Indian fans. The ODI middle order has been exposed quite badly in the last couple of seasons, that too in important games. With Dhoni coming good, Virat needs to give Kedar and Karthik a decent run from here on until the World cup. I think, it is high time that the team decided on the roles for each player in the middle order and give them time to rehearse it.
Australian batting failed to cope with the varied attack that was upon them. Khawaja, Marsh and Handscomb played well to set up a good base for a ‘biggish’ total. However, Chahal’s variety got the better of all three of them. The batsmen after them couldn’t create the momentum required to resurrect the innings. The pitch was sluggish and it helped the Indian spinners to keep the Aussies on a tight leash.
Again, Aussies will look to their duo of Warner and Smith to return to the team and bolster their batting. All the opposing teams would have taken note of Finch’s problems with the incoming delivery. This will mean that Aussies will need to find a new partner for Warner or Finch should somehow get himself out of this rut. Time is running out for Australia’s other opener.
JL seems to have slotted Maxwell as their No.7 player, who will provide the fireworks during the slog overs. He is a very destructive batsman capable of scoring hundreds and one may wonder, if his gifts will be wasted down the order.
Jhye Richardson came back well after an indifferent show in Adelaide. He was the pick of the bowlers and it showed in the way, the Indian batsmen chose to play him out rather than try to score off him. He looks a good modern fast bowler with good pace and also the nous to vary it, as he needs. Even after the big guns return, I think Jhye will hold his place or at least give Starc a run for his spot in the team.
Adam Zampa looks impressive in every outing. I can’t remember many games where Zampa bowled shabbily. He has excellent control on his bowling and will make a good pairing with Lyon. On a flattish or sluggish wicket, Aussies could be tempted to bowl these two guys in tandem.
Siddle was the go to bowler for the Indian batsmen, whenever they needed to amp up the scoring rate. He looked quite flustered bowling wides, over pitched deliveries and made it all too easy for Kedar and Dhoni to score in the last five overs of the chase. I am not sure if he will remain in the Australian World cup plans.
Australia’s sloppy catching needs to be called out here. It was so unlike the Australian team to drop sitters like that catch that Maxwell dropped off Dhoni. This made their bowling look even more ineffective.
India completed a rare double in Australia, winning both the test and the ODI series. But for the rain in MCG, India could well have won all three. It is the first time that India will return from the land down under, without a loss in a series. It has been a period of joy and one to remember for Indian fans.
As for Australia, they are a side that missed their key players and will seek solace in the fact that they will be back to full strength at last this summer in England. The falling standards of Aussie cricket should a cause for worry for cricket fans. One really hopes that the hard-nosed Aussies return to their best and help produce the best from the opposition. It is not a stretch to say that the Aussies have helped separate men from the boys over the past twenty years or so. Here is wishing good luck to our mates down under!!