It was a day of sporting success for India in Melbourne. By evening, Sania Mirza had won the Australian Open doubles title with Martina Hingis, the Indian cricket women’s team defeated Australia in the second T20 to win the three-match series, and the women’s success rubbed on the Indian men who clinched a comprehensive win in the second T20 to win the series as well.
Before the fifth ODI, after they lost four in a row, the Indian team had talked about viewing this tour as an 8-match series (Five one-dayers and three T20s) and if one were to indulge them and look at it through that prism, the scoreline now reads 3-4, with one match left to go.
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While it’s sort of a redemption on the tour that had started badly, these two T20’s would have given MS Dhoni a good idea about the kind of team he would like to go in for upcoming T20 World Cup.
Suddenly, he has a seaming and a couple of spin all-rounders, and plenty of experience to go with and batsmen in great form.
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It was the batsmen who set up the second T20 game before the bowlers finished the game rather clinically.
Set to chase 185, that was built on fifties from Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli who blitzed a 33-ball 59, Australia had reached 94 without loss in the 10th over but India rallied back through a disciplined bowling performance to win by 27 runs.
It was R Ashwin who started the Indian revival in the 10th over. Before that, he had already seen his captain miss a stumping chance of Shaun Marsh. There was more heartbreak around the corner. In his second over, the 10th of the chase, Aaron Finch was dropped off successive deliveries.
Rishi Dhawan ran back at deep square-leg but couldn’t manage to catch the skier. Next, Shikhar Dhawan dropped a sitter at deep midwicket. Luckily, for India and Ashwin, Hardik Pandya managed to hold on to a catch next ball at long-on to remove Shaun Marsh.
Smart bowling changes
Dhoni introduced Pandya into the attack next over and got under a swirling top edge from Chris Lynn, who was beaten by the change of pace.
Dhoni’s smart bowling shuffles were beginning to work and one such move triggered India’s best moment on the field. In the 12th over, with Glenn Maxwell and Finch in, Dhoni brought on Yuvraj Singh the “pie-chucker”. There was some rain in the evening and the ball was skidding on a touch on that surface. Yuvraj was just the perfect bowler for that track.
Maxwell, as ever looking to be ambitious, charged down the track but flagged his intention too early and Yuvraj was smart enough to skid the ball wide of the off stump to allow Dhoni to complete the stumping.
By the time Maxwell sat at the dug out Australia were left needing 83 runs from 48 balls , a task that proved beyond their lower middle order as India’s fielding grew sharper. Ravindra Jadeja caught a blinder of a return catch, moving his hands quickly to his right to hold on to a powerful hit by Shane Watson. Jadeja also slipped in a quick throw to run out Finch, who was seen limping back to the pavilion and the wickets continued to tumble as India took full control of the game.
It was the spinners who brought India back in the game once again and Dhoni later said he didn’t want to use spinners early in the innings and wanted to keep them for the business end of things as he felt the pitch would suit them then. “I knew they would hit a few boundaries to the fast bowlers but I thought the spinners will have a very good chance, even if the run-rate was 10 an over for the first six overs. Though I felt the outfield was still a bit wet, but I thought our spinners can still manage with different lengths.
And the kind of talent they have, they can still exploit the bigger outfield, especially on one side, and that’s what happened. So I was pretty sure that whatever happens, I’m not using the spinners in the first six.”
A tour that had stared badly, and threatened to spiral completely out of control, is promising to end on a good note.