Australia scripts come-from-behind ODI series win

Having lost the first two ODIs, a spirited Australian team came from behind and thrashed a disarrayed India to win the five-match ODI series 3-2.

Usman Khawaja scored a match-winning century against India at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Wednesday.   -  R.V. Moorthy

India would have justifications for its lapses in the One-Day International (ODI) series against Australia – its policy of experimentation for the World Cup, and the dew factor.

However, these constraints would hardly be enough to justify its tame surrender to Australia at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Tuesday as it tumbled to a 35-run loss.

For the first time in the series, the team did not look like a side ranked second in the world in ODIs, and it duly paid for it with a rare series loss – its first in five participated rubbers.

Usman Khawaja (100, 106b, 10X4, 2X6) remained in top form with the bat with a serene century, his second of the series, and Adam Zampa, the leg-spinner, shone with the ball, taking three key wickets in his frugal 10 overs. He was later awarded player of the series.

In India’s chase of 273, Zampa’s blows were decisive. He wasn’t helped by lapses in the field – Rohit Sharma (56, 89b, 4X4) was dropped twice off his bowling when the contest seemed to be on knife’s edge.

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When on 52, Rohit was dropped by wicketkeeper Alex Carey, and after having added a run to his tally, he was dropped by Glenn Maxwell at cover.

But Zampa ensured his team didn’t live to rue those chances as he dismissed him out soon after; Rohit charged out of his crease in search of an attacking stroke, and the ball sneaked through him for the wicketkeeper to do the rest.

Three balls later, Zampa had Ravindra Jadeja, the new batsman, dismissed stumped – in shaping for a forward defence off a delivery that turned away, Jadeja’s back-foot was on the line.

It left India six down, with 141 still to get in 21 overs, and prompted some spectators to start leaving the stadium.

It wasn’t the death knell, however, as Kedar Jadhav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar kept India’s hopes alive with a fighting partnership.

They initially took the singles on offer, and then, in the period between the 39th and the 45th overs, struck a few heavy blows.

Maxwell, Zampa and Jhye Richardson were slogged; but by the 47th over, both were dismissed, and Australia needed to complete only the formalities.

Fielding one specialist batsman less for this game – Ambati Rayudu and K. L. Rahul were both axed – India needed more responsibility by the top order. Early on, Rohit played in his trademark style, hitting boundaries via imperious drives, and looked set despite wickets falling around him.

Shikhar Dhawan, his opening partner, failed with the bat for the fourth time in the series, edging Pat Cummins behind for 12, while No. 3 Virat Kohli, when on 20, was undone by a cross seam delivery from Marcus Stoinis that took his edge through to the wicketkeeper.

Soon, Rishabh Pant was out, too; off a nice delivery that dipped and turned, he hung out his bat and provided an edge to slip.

Vijay Shankar, for once, failed to make an impact with the bat, caught in the deep as he tried to play a lofted stroke off Zampa.

It left much to do for the lower-order; eventually, the uphill task proved too arduous.

In contrast to India’s innings, the Australian top-order played responsibly upfront, laying a solid foundation for a sizeable total. After Aaron Finch’s early dismissal, Khawaja and Peter Handscomb (52, 60b, 4X4) got together to graft, much like Mohali.

This time, however, Khawaja outscored his partner, scoring his second century in the series.

He stroke the ball sweetly all through his innings, the highlights being his flick of the wrist off fast bowlers, and his occasional drives.

He played the sweep and the reverse-sweep, too, and came down the track twice to Kuldeep Yadav, the left-arm chinaman bowler, to collect sixes.

He eventually fell in the 33rd over, failing to keep his drive off Bhuvneshwar down to be caught by Kohli at cover.

It precipitated a mini-collapse, as Glenn Maxwell and Handscomb were dismissed with the addition of seven more runs.

Unlike in Mohali, India’s fast bowlers were useful at the death, removing Marcus Stoinis and Alex Carey before they could cause some damage with the bat.

A late assault from Pat Cummins and Jhye Richardson, however, took the total way past 250. Jasprit Bumrah, who had given away only 14 runs off his eight overs, leaked 19 runs off his ninth.

Cummins backed this with a frugal 10-over spell as well, giving away 38 runs and taking two wickets. He played a small but significant part in what was an all-round performance by his side for its first series win in over two years.