In the 22nd over of Australia’s chase,Ravichandran Ashwin handed his cap over to the umpire for the first time in the match. For a spinner used to a much earlier introduction into the attack,even with the new ball sometimes,this was a rare conventional moment. But as Ashwin stood at his mark,waiting to bowl,and looked at the surroundings,from the skies to the scoreboard,there was nothing conventional about it.
In a country renowned for its rainfall and bang in the middle of a cold wave,the sun lashed down upon Ashwin’s back. And on the scoreboard,Australia were 54/8. Each of those wickets were taken by India’s fast bowlers. The world,on Tuesday,was not what it used to be.
Ashwin only got to deliver nine balls,the ninth dismissing Australia’s top-scorer Adam Voges and bringing their innings to a close. Australia had been bowled out for 65. Friendly or not,this was their lowest ever one-day score. While India’s margin of victory,243 runs,was shocking enough,it wouldn’t have done much for the defending champions’ morale when they calculate that Dinesh Karthik a man who hasn’t featured in an ODI since 2010 bettered their score,all by himself,by 81 runs.
But for that,neither Karthik nor MS Dhoni (who backed Karthik up with an explosive 91) could be held responsible. Putting up a big score,even if after a top-order collapse of their own,was one thing. Ensuring that the opposition didn’t come within miles of it was another. And just for that,Umesh Yadav,who took 5/13 from five overs,was the singular hero of the day.
On Tuesday,Yadav was a wicketless bowler for all of one ball. Yadav banged his first delivery in short and wide to opener Matthew Wade and was punished with a cracking pull to the midwicket fence. The next ball,Yadav pitched it exactly where he had done previously,but minus the pace. Early into the stroke,Wade bottom edged the ball on to his stumps.
In his next over,Yadav had David Warner caught behind,tricking him into going for that expansive drive. The first two balls of the over,he pitched outside Warner’s off-stump at a driveable length. Then he pulled back his length to induce the edge. First slip Ashwin had his first involvement in the game.
It was during his third over that Yadav bowled the ball of the day,to Australia captain George Bailey. Going wide of the crease and hitting the back of a length spot on off stump,Yadav had Bailey playing for the angling-in ball. He brought his bat down in one gentle motion,but the ball carried on with its line and kissed the top of off stump.
In all of his overs bar one on Tuesday,Yadav struck an Aussie wicket. And that over was faced by Phil Hughes. With that confidence behind him,Hughes even drove Yadav for a boundary in his following over. But when Yadav dropped it shorter next ball,Hughes mishit his pull and played on,much like Wade.
The fast bowler from Vidarbha,who hasn’t ever taken over three wickets in a real ODI,sensed his opportunity for something big. Big became bigger when he had Mitchell Marsh caught behind to have the opportunity of a hat-trick. It wasn’t meant to be as Shane Watson,batting at number seven,defended a ball that was anyway set to miss the stumps. Dhoni punished him for it by not giving him a bowl again.
While Yadav put a pretty pink ribbon around this gift of a day,the contents were first filled in by the captain himself. With the top order torn to shreds,Dhoni joined Karthik at 55/5. Although Karthik was too composed to try anything but stage a recovery the traditional way,Dhoni looked to bludgeon India out of trouble initially and then again towards the end.
Two of the three Mitchells in this game were at the receiving end. First Marsh,in the 40th,was chopped,choppered and helicoptered for 6,4 and 6. Then in the 43rd,Johnson’s full toss was heaved out of the ground over midwicket,forcing him to change his line and promptly leak off-side boundaries. It was in the 47th over of the innings that Dhoni and Karthik brought up their 200-run stand. Nearing his century as well,Dhoni looked to reach it in sixes. He dug out a James Faulkner yorker,aiming beyond the ropes,and saw it bounce on the outfield on its way there. Dhoni gave that six-attempt another try,but skied a full toss into the off-side. He was caught for 91.
But he and Karthik had done enough. In just their last 38 balls,India had scored more than Australia would manage in all of theirs.
Brief scores: India 308/6 in 50 overs (D Karthik 146*,MS Dhoni 91; M Starc 2/73,C McKay 2/39); Australia 65 all out in 23.3 overs (A Voges 23; U Yadav 5/18,I Sharma 3/11)