Two meetings simultaneously commenced on the Mohali field,at the end of the 45th over of the chase. Behind the stumps,MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli put their heads together and in front of it,Adam Voges summoned James Faulkner for a chat. One didnt have to tune in to the stump mike to know that discussions revolved around just how to score (Aussies) or defend (Indians) 66 runs from the remaining 30 balls.
Dhoni reintroduced R Vinay Kumar,the best Indian bowler on show until then,into the attack. Vinay had dismissed both Phil Hughes and George Bailey the two top scorers for Australia from the Jaipur game just when they were beginning to look dangerous,on 22 and 43 respectively. And in seven overs,he had gone for just 3.86 runs per over.
Vinay said a prayer and charged in. Two boundaries,a top-edge from Faulkners blade and a late cut by Voges past third man,ensured that the bowler conceded 14 from his over. This was Australias best over against a regular bowler in the innings,second only to the 18 given away by Virat Kohli in the 40th. Then,when Ashwin went for eight runs in the 47th,reducing the target to 44 from 18 balls,the teams once again broke for another set of meetings. It isnt yet out of hand,the Indians must have felt.
The Aussies too must have felt the same thing,when Dhoni brought Ishant Sharma back into the attack.
In the three matches played before the Mohali game on Australias tour of India so far,including the T20,Ishant has conceded 52 runs from four overs in Rajkot,56 from seven in Pune and 70 from nine in Jaipur. On Saturday,however,Ishant had given away just 33 runs from his previous seven overs. He had also trapped opener Aaron Finch,a rare moment of joy considering it was only his third LBW decision in six years of playing one-day cricket. A wave of hair swooshed in,veiling his eyes as he bent his spine.
Considering what happened each time he released the ball this over,Ishant would have never wished the hair-screen away.
With three men protecting the deep on the leg side,Ishant hurled the ball just where Faulkner would have liked it. Full and wide of off stump. The ball darted over the helpless infield for a one-bounce four. Ishant did his best to correct the line,but ended up getting his length awfully wrong. Short and sitting up to be hit,Faulkner clubbed it over the three outfielders past midwicket for six. Bruised,Ishant went full and straight. But so did Faulkner,assaulting the delivery straight over the sightscreen for the second six of the over.
Dhoni,ashen-faced by now,walked up to the stumps and pointed down at his toes. Block-hole ball,the gesture screamed. Ishant nodded. When he delivered,he seemed to be trying to hit his own toes it was another short ball. Faulkner directed it toward cow corner and ran two. Great,Ishant must have thought,the short ball must surely be the answer. So his next two balls were half-trackers as well. The first was collected 104 metres from pitch,from under the seats just over a squarish fine leg. The next bounced over a row of hands in the stands behind square leg. It brought up Faulkners fifty,from just 24 balls.
Ishant had conceded 30 runs from one over and Australia now needed just 14 from 12 balls. Had this been a trophy game,an attendant would have been asked to begin inscribing the name of the victor on the silver.
Still,just for your benefit,heres what happened. Ashwin bowled out of his skin in the 49th to concede five runs and renew Indias hopes. Then Vinay Kumar,bowling around the wicket in the 50th,fed Faulkner a waist-high full toss with 6 runs required from 4 balls. Even before the ball was put out of its misery with a heave over midwicket,Dhoni put his head down. He couldnt bear to watch.
I could perhaps have bowled that Ishant over, he said later. He perhaps should have,considering that each time he backed his instincts on the field on Saturday,Dhoni was successful. He backed his batting to get India to over 300 despite being a hundred short of that score by the end of the 40th. Then he backed his field placements to keep Australia well away from the target on a batting-friendly pitch until that Ishant over.
On the field,Dhoni was more or less spot on Saturday. But off it,not so much. For this match was probably lost before even the toss,when Dhoni chose to retain in his playing eleven the services of Vinay and Ishant. Men who havent yet taken one five-wicket haul in 97 ODI between them. Men who heavily aided (143 runs in 18 overs) the scoring of 359 runs in Jaipur. Men who have now conceded 380 runs between them in 50.3 combined overs this series.
‘Bowlers cant be spoon-fed’
India skipper MS Dhoni criticised his bowlers performance at the death,after Indias four-wicket defeat to Australia in the third ODI. Bowling the 48th over,with Australia needing 44 off 18 balls,Ishant Sharma conceded 30 runs off his eighth over.
I think the last few overs were disappointing. It is an area of concern and it is getting worse. There was a bit of dew but not like in the last game. The individuals will have to step up,they have to come up with their plans and back their strength, Dhoni said.
Indias pacers have struggled in all three ODIs,with both Ishant and Vinay Kumar conceding more that seven runs an over through the series. You dont need to spoonfeed bowlers at the international level. You need to come up with your plan,focus on your strength and execute your plans, Dhoni said,when asked if he had given any specific directions to his bowlers.