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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Cut to the chase: How the last three overs played out in Nagpur against Australia

In the end, Kohli’s decision to give the last over to Shankar stood vindicated while Stoinis’s ploy to play out an entire Bumrah over backfired.

Written by Sriram Veera | New Delhi | Updated: March 7, 2019 8:45:43 am
virat kohli, vijay shankar, vijay shankar final over, vijay shankar wickets, kohli, chahal tv, chahal tv video, india vs australia, ind vs aus, india vs australia 2nd odi, ind vs aus 2nd odi, cricket news, indian express Vijay Shankar picked up two wickets in the final over against Australia. (Source: AP)

“Hindsight is a beautiful thing … you think if this partnership goes longer or you take a risk earlier (what would have happened), all that sort of stuff. You never know what’s going to happen” – Marcus Stoinis on the morning after the night of discontent. The Nagpur ODI came down to a curious decision by Stoinis. With the equation reading 21 from 18 balls, he chose to bat out Jasprit Bumrah’s last over. Just one run came off the last ball. We know what happened next. It wasn’t a bad decision as he knew India had to go to either Kedar Jadhav or Vijay Shankar for the final over and it’s interesting to see what goes through the minds of batsmen under pressure and how it plays out in the decisions they take. In some sense, Stoinis almost played the game out in his head, like MS Dhoni used to do it in his heyday, and the world is a rosy place in one’s own head. Reality can turn out differently sometimes. This was one such event. Sriram Veera deconstructs.

What Kohli thought

Virat Kohli, who has not only tamed his ego while batting in Tests against quality bowlers, he is also the most tamed captain in the world when it comes to limited-overs cricket. He has no problem – or knows he can’t have one – in consulting Dhoni or Rohit Sharma, the two cool and wise heads in the team, when it comes to taking tough calls. The awareness that outsourcing to better tactical minds works is a good trait to have. There is no parallel in world cricket where a captain, a top player himself, takes the backstage so much that sometimes he isn’t even there in some of the decision-making. Especially for a man who is perceived to make it all about himself. Kohli might be self-absorbed, but he is also a man obsessed about winning and has learnt to take a backseat for his own good. If one is a Kohli fan, one can also argue that it takes a man without much insecurity to allow the other to take the limelight.

READ | Vijay Shankar: India’s last over action hero against Australia

What was decided

Kohli wandered across to have a quick chat with Sharma and Dhoni about who should bowl the 48th over. Should he bowl out Bumrah or give Vijay Shankar or Kedar Jadhav a bowl in hope that they don’t leak too many runs. He was told by both that he had to go to Bumrah. No use leaking 10 runs and trying to play catch-up later.

What Stoinis was thinking

Almost the same thought was running through Stoinis’ head once he saw Bumrah being called up to bowl. Should be go for the runs now or play catch-up later. Should he do a Dhoni? Stretch it to the last over and see if the nerves fray.

READ | Virat Kohli equals Sachin Tendulkar’s record after 2nd ODI win

How it played out

Deciding to not to go on all-out attack is one thing but to choose all-out block quite different. After all, he had Nathan Lyon on the other side, not a mug with the bat. He can be expected to push for singles. Lyon didn’t have to slog at Bumrah as the asking rate wasn’t that high. He can push and prod, surely? If they had even five runs or so off that over, it would have racked up the pressure on not just Shankar but even Shami who bowled the penultimate over.

On air, Matthew Hayden sighed. He couldn’t understand Stoinis’ tactics of defending out. He talked about how it could backfire later and how hard Stoinis was making things for himself.

Vijay Shankar celebrates the dismissal of Australia's Marcus Stoinis during the 2nd ODI cricket match at Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, in Nagpur Vijay Shankar was given the pressure-filled job of defending 11 runs in the final over vs Australia in second ODI. (Source: PTI)

The 49th over

As good as he has become, the end-overs Shami isn’t a complete package yet. He bowls short of length or tries for yorkers, but without the control as his last ball in that over would prove – Lyon slashed an inside-edge four off a yorker-turned-full toss. Under pressure, the batsmen should be able to predict what’s going to come from Shami: a back-of-length delivery on the stumps and if the pitch has bounce, a bouncer. If there is a lesser batsman on strike, he would try an yorker.

Stoinis miscalculation

Stoinis isn’t Dhoni of old and the impact of defending out a over when in full flow had an impact on his strokeplay. To switch suddenly from attack to defence and then back to attackis not easy.

“He [Stoinis] played it beautifully, the way he just counted down the balls, chose the bowlers. To have 11 off the last over against probably their fifth bowler is a pretty good position from where we were. He set it up beautifully – just wasn’t his day… that last over,” Pat Cummins would say at the end of it.

Of course, Stoinis had batted really but changing his approach for the 48th over played haywire with his rhythm. Normally, he would have gone for an on-the-up straight hit to a length delivery on middle stump. But it was the pressure that made him heave across the line.

Shankar holds his nerve

What if Stoinis had nailed that ball for a six? Would his decision of playing out Bumrah be justified? If it were not the fact that India had to go to their weakest bowler for the final over, Stoinis wouldn’t have done what he did. Sometimes, the weak link doesn’t always sink the team.

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