India win decider, clinch ODI series against Australia 2-1
INDIAVS AUSTRALIA THIRD ODI
Bengaluru, India - Without their allrounder going into the series, losing their in-form opening batsman to injury during the series decider, India found a way to win the three-match ODI series against Australia despite losing all three tosses.
Australia's decision to bat first left Virat Kohli smiling ear to ear, his bowlers only widened that smile by keeping Australia down to 286 despite a Steven Smith century (131). During the chase, Rohit Sharma (119) scored a special ton to negate the challenge.
In the final equation, on a pitch that spinners from both sides were a threat, the two main quicks from either side proved to be the difference. Jasprit Bumrah was stellar in conceding just 38 in his ten overs, and Mohammed Shami took wickets with the new ball and old.
Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, though, were a big letdown for Australia, conceding 130 runs in 16 wicktless overs between them, which meant when the spinners and Josh Hazlewood bowled well, Rohit and Kohli (89) were not under any askingrate pressure.
Shami dealt the visitors a big blow in the first exchanges despite a wayward - eight wides in first three overs - by both of India's opening bowlers. In the fourth over, Shami got the ball to shape up to swing back into David Warner, but leave him upon pitching, taking the edge.
In the ninth over, Aaron Finch went for perhaps a highly risky single to Jadeja at point, but Smith was the bigger culprit in not trusting the call from the non-striker. The run-out left Finch furious, and Smith with a big task of shepherding the suspect middle order. Except that he was met in the middle by his clone Marnus Labuschagne.
Smith and Labuschagne pulled Australia out of that crisis, taking them into the last 20 overs with eight wickets in hand. This time Labuschagne reached his maiden half-century too. However, just like the last match, Ravindra Jadeja had begun to frustrate the batsmen with tight overs. In partnership with Kuldeep Yadav and Shami, he strung together 45 balls without a boundary. Then he had Kohli helping him in the 32nd over.
At a close extra cover, Kohli made an excellent diving save to his left to deny Labuschagne a boundary first ball. To the third ball, he dived to his right to dismiss Labuschagne after a maiden fifty. An experiment to pinch-hit with Mitchell Starc lasted three balls.
If Starc's dismissal was a sign the pitch was not the usual flat Bangalore surface, Smith's failure to place the ball in the coming overs only reinforced it. A mix of orthodox and reverse sweeps from Alex Carey gave Australia some momentum in a run-a-ball 58-run partnership, but the moment Carey tried to hit a six even he ended up miscuing Kuldeep to deep cover.
Smith threatened a final kick with 25 off eight deliveries, but Shami not only had him caught at deep midwicket, he also ensured there was no annoying cameo from the tail.
It was obvious fairly early this was not going to be an easy chase. Not often in ODI cricket do you see two fairly close lbw appeals, three plays and misses and one edge falling short against Rohit in the first ten overs. Also just as rare is Rohit taking extra risks and scoring 41 runs in those ten overs.
Dhawan's injury while fielding meant Lokesh Rahul was opening with Rohit after having kept for 50 overs. Rohit, though, backed himself and knew he couldn't let India fall behind the game by the time spin came on.
So when Ashton Agar, Adam Zampa and Hazlewood put the squeeze on, taking Rahul's wicket and conceding 35 in the next ten overs, India could sit back and absorb that pressure.
And when pressure was built, Finch didn't go to his main bowlers to go find the breakthrough.
He gambled. First with Labuschagne, then with himself. Twenty runs in two overs. Pressure off. And when Finch finally brought his main bowlers, they released the pressure further.
Rohit kept taking calculating risks, hitting six sixes in his innings, reaching his hundred with India's score only 154. When he did perish, he did so trying to put the chase beyond doubt, looking to hit his seventh six.
It left India 81 to get in 80 balls, and if there were any nerves with a shortened batting line-up, the king of chases was there to soothe them. In Kohli's company, Shreyas Iyer too made a mini comeback from a mini slump. Kohli missed out on a century, but by the time he fell for 89 India needed just 13 from 25.