Australia flexed its batting might, its spread of bowlers, and brought an end to its unceremonious five-match losing streak with a 66-run victory against India in the third One-Day International in Rajkot on Wednesday.
Glenn Maxwell provided 4/40 with the ball upon his return from injury to play a pivotal role in the defence of 352 runs. For India, it was a case of gathering steam and failing to make the final charge. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli struck fifties, and many others got starts but none could anchor the chase through.
Rohit made merry in the first PowerPlay, launching an offence against pacers. He got off the blocks in the first over with a pull against Mitchell Starc. Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins were the next to see Rohit unleash his trademark strokes as India raced away to its 50 in the seventh over.
The skipper, when offered, was equally proficient in dispatching full deliveries through the off-side. Washington Sundar, in his first essay as an opening batter, took time to fire. But he found his bearings in the fifth over, punishing a half-tracker from Hazlewood.
Rohit was put down by Starc on 48 off Green. The reprieve allowed him to run two and register a 31-ball fifty.
With pacers misfiring, Maxwell made inroads and sent Washington packing off a miscued inside-out shot to long off. With the field spread out, India could wipe out just 19 off the target between overs 11 and 15.
Virat Kohli broke the shackles against Cummins, rolling his wrists to whip a delivery from outside off over square leg. He lofted the next from inches above mid-off as India reached 100 in the 16th over. Tanvir Sangha was next in line. Kohli swatted a full delivery down the ground before Rohit swept to pick 10 from the over.
Kohli’s six charging down the track, off Starc, sent the crowd into a ‘Kohli, Kohli’ chorus. India, however, hit a speed bump when Maxwell plucked a mind-boggling one-handed catch off his bowling to claim Rohit’s wicket.
Maxwell piled further misery. One over after notching up a fifty, Kohli’s wild heave drew a top edge which Steve Smith tracked back from mid-wicket to gather.
K.L. Rahul and Shreyas Iyer, tasked with putting the chase back on track, nibbled on in singles. The pair collected the odd boundary and completed a 50-run stand. But an ever-inching asking rate eventually induced an error from Rahul, who offered a skier to Alex Carey.
Australia tightened the noose in the next two overs. Suryakumar Yadav was rushed into a pull shot by Hazlewood and offered a sitter to mid-wicket before Maxwell castled Iyer to claim his fourth.
Left with the tail for company, Ravindra Jadeja’s 37-run resistance was buried by Sangha in the 49th over. The pacers returned to lap up the rest and bundled India out for 286.
Earlier in the day, Australia’s innings, which looked set to chart a course beyond 400 runs, lost its way through its latter stages.
On a batting belter, Australia powered to 90 runs by the end of the PowerPlay. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Siraj got stuck between a rock and a hard place. With little to no swing on offer, David Warner and Mitchell Marsh feasted on the fuller deliveries. Pulling the lengths back yielded nothing different.
The floodgates opened in the third over, bowled by Bumrah, when Marsh collected 14 runs with a pull shot over mid-wicket and a slap through point. Warner followed it up with 16 from Siraj’s over.
Prasidh Krishna got a similar welcome, as Warner pocketed 19 runs from his first over. Warner could add just five runs after his 32-ball fifty. Going for an overambitious scoop down to fine leg of Krishna, he offered a feather to Rahul.
Local boy Jadeja was introduced to pull the reins in on Australia. His flat deliveries fired at stump-to-stump line worked, but Smith and Marsh were comfortable hunting for loose balls. Marsh brought up his fifty in 45 deliveries.
Sundar mirrored his senior bowling partner’s approach, forcing the Aussie pair to collect runs square off the wicket. However, Marsh went full throttle upon Bumrah’s return. He parked two short deliveries over the deep square fence before hitting two fours through the off-side.
Marsh sliced a half-tracker from Kuldeep Yadav to hole out at covers and fall four short of a century. For nearly half the way back to the dugout, Marsh held his hands over his head, partly in disbelief and partly in regret.
Australia, cruising at 225/2 in 30 overs, suffered a mini-collapse. Siraj foxed Smith on 74 with a delivery that held its line. Smith, looking to clip the ball on the on side, was caught plumb in front of the stumps.
After the twin strikes, Marnus Labuschagne, who had joined the party with a reverse sweep off Sundar, was forced to recalibrate.
Carey departed when he chipped an off-cutter from Bumrah to Kohli at short cover. Maxwell’s comeback knock lasted seven deliveries after Bumrah nailed a yorker with pin-point precision to rattle his off stump. In the 41st over, Cameron Green holed out at long on leaving Australia at 299/6.
Labuschagne finally found company from skipper Cummins, who rotated the strike.
Labuschagne’s end arrived in the penultimate over when he shuffled across to heave Bumrah’s delivery from wide outside off and found Iyer at long-on. But his 58-ball 72 got Australia over 350 which proved more than enough.
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