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India have a (mis)field day: Australia avoid clean sweep in third T20I

Matthew Wade's 80-run knock and Mitchell Swepson's three wickets helped Australia end India's ten-match winning streak in T20Is.

Written by Vishal Menon | Updated: December 9, 2020 2:55:48 pm
Mitchell Swepson celebrates taking the wicket of Shreyas Iyer. (Reuters)

The last time India lost a T20I game while chasing was against New Zealand at Hamilton in February 2019. Since then, they had won nine consecutive games batting second. On Tuesday, against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground, they were in with a good chance of making it 10 games on the bounce. But that didn’t happen, as they went down by 12 runs. Even though India had already pocketed this series, the third and final T20 fixture was far from a dead rubber, as the four-match Test series is a little more than a week away. As far as Tuesday’s contest is concerned, it was a game throbbing with life.

Mathew Wade (53-ball 80) and Glenn Maxwell (36-ball 54) set the stage with brilliant counter-attacking half-centuries that vaulted Australia to 186/5 after being asked to take first strike. In response, Virat Kohli, the irrepressible India captain and arguably the finest chaser in modern cricket, kept his team in the hunt with his imperious stroke-play.

With Hardik Pandya for company, it looked like the target of 187 was well within their grasp. India required 43 from the final three overs and seemed to be in with a shout. But the inexperienced Australian bowling attack held its nerve. They removed Pandya and Kohli in the space of seven deliveries to turn the tide in their favour. There wasn’t to be any heroics or a match-winning six from Pandya in this game.

Looking back, India would rue the fact that despite a rampant Kohli at the crease, they left the final onslaught a touch too late. More worryingly, however, was their shoddy performance in the field, which saw their fielders shelling regulation catches, wicketkeeper KL Rahul missing an easy stumping chance, apart from one of the bowlers overstepping and a review not being taken.

Lack of finishing touch

The reason why India is such a dangerous outfit in T20 chases is that their batting is characterised by nonchalance, which often borders on arrogance. Supremely talented and blessed with abundance of self-belief, neither a stiff target nor a high asking rate seems to faze the Indian batsmen. Bulk of that assurance comes from having someone like Kohli batting at No.3. He is the lynchpin around which the Indian batting revolves. On Tuesday, those present at the SCG witnessed another Kohli masterclass, though it couldn’t get his side over the line. Walking in to bat just two balls into the chase, he eased into his knock with a 74-run partnership with Shikhar Dhawan. But leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson got the left-hander caught in the outfield, before getting rid of Sanju Samson and Shreyas Iyer, to rob India of the momentum.

When Pandya joined his captain, India required 87 from seven overs, a win still within the realms of possibility. They began serenely, before cutting loose to plunder 20 off Daniel Sams in the 16th over. With 56 now required off four overs, India were in the ascendancy. But when Adam Zampa removed Pandya off the first ball of the 17th over, by eliciting a top edge, and then Andrew Tye removed Kohli in the following over to a spectacular catch in the deep by Sams, India were left to get 36 off 11 deliveries. Shardul Thakur biffed a brace of sixes, but that would not be sufficient to take India home.

Lapses galore in field

More than the lack of a finish touch in their batting, Team India would rue the series of misdemeanours in the field. It began with Rahul missing a straightforward stumping chance against Steve Smith. That lapse didn’t hurt the team much as the Australian star was bowled by Washington Sundar later in the same over. More telling was how they were hesitant to take a review against Wade —- who was hit on the pads by T. Natarajan. It was only after the Indians saw the replays on the giant screen that they realised that it was a close call. When they asked for a review, it was rightfully turned down by the umpires. Wade was batting on 50 then, and would go on add another 30 runs to his tally.

There was further embarrassment in store in the 13th over, when Maxwell batting on 19, top-edged Yuzvendra Chahal to Rahul. Straightforward dismissal, it seemed, only to realise soon after that the leg-spinner had overstepped. Maxwell got two more reprieves, dropped by Deepak Chahar and Chahal. The Victorian made the Indians pay for these glaring errors by bludgeoning a half-century. Adding to India’s woes, Sundar got into a tangle in the deep in the penultimate over of the Australian innings, the lapse handing Moises Henriques a boundary. Altogether, it was a forgetful day on the field for Team India.

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