Of the match situations that coach Duncan Fletcher gave Ravindra Jadeja to bat in at the nets on Wednesday, 18 off 6 balls with No.11 at the other end wasn’t one. That was exactly what the equation boiled down to in the third ODI, a do-or-die match for India. Till then the momentum had swung like a pendulum for 99 overs. First, New Zealand looked all set to score in excess of 350 at one stage. Then it looked like they would struggle to make 300. Eventually, they settled for an above-par 314. Chasing, India flew off the blocks but were soon five down in the 28th over. They found a second wind thanks to the ever-reliable Mahendra Singh Dhoni and unlikely herores R Ashwin and Ravindra Jajeda and were three clean hits away from a miraculous win.
As Corey Anderson, who with 5/45 in his first nine overs was the best bowler on show, ran into bowl the first ball, there was so much pent-up tension in the stands, one could cut it with a knife.
First ball. Anderson banged it just short of length and Jadeja pulled it away in the mid-wicket direction for a boundary. Anderson then bowled a wide and a dot ball to make it 13 off four. The left-arm pacer then delivered another dot ball, with Jadeja refusing to take a run after guiding it to third man. Thirteen off three. A dot ball here, and an Indian win would be ruled out, provided there were no extras. Jadeja took a moment off and closed his eyes as if meditating.
Last over drama
Next ball was full and into the body, but the batsman did well to get out the way at the last moment. It was ruled wide. Anderson’s fifth ball, another back-of-a-length delivery was flicked for four towards fine leg while the penultimate ball, a similar delivery, was swatted away for a six over mid-wicket. Off the last ball the left-handed batman tried to hit through covers, but the shot was blocked and Jadeja and Varun Aaron took one run to tie the match and keep the series alive.
The entire Indian team trooped out of the dressing room to receive Aaron and Jadeja, who was unbeaten on 68 off 45 balls with five four and four sixes. It was Jadeja’s seventh ODI half-century and first in over one year.
The man that Jadeja took the baton from was R Ashwin, promoted ahead of the left-hander at No.7. Ashwin, has a Test average touching 40, but is continued…