Who said bilateral ODI series are boring? Going by the decider in Delhi, the charm is well and truly alive. However, the end result was not what the home team would have wished for as Australia beat India by 35 runs in the fifth and final ODI in New Delhi on Wednesday to register their first series win (3-2) on Indian soil in nearly a decade.
Usman Khawaja struck a brilliant century to help Australia do the same and cap off a memorable series win. Khawaja’s second hundred of the series came on a challenging surface as Australia posted 272/9 in 50 overs. India were once again guilty of losing wickets at regular intervals. Only Rohit Sharma scored a fifty among the top three while the middle order failed yet again.
India bowled first and had the distinct advantage of knowing how the pitch would behave. It was apparent early on that shotmaking was not going to be easy as the batsmen needed that extra bit of time in the middle to get accustomed to it. Despite this, some of the shots played by the batsmen left a lot to be desired. India lost Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli within the first 15 overs. Rohit got a lifeline on 53 when Glenn Maxwell dropped a sitter off Adam Zampa with the score on 128/4 (26.1 overs).
However, he failed to capitalise on the chance and was dismissed by the leg-spinner one over later. It was a strange dismissal as Rohit danced down the track but the variable bounce got the better of him. As the bat flew out his hand, Carey completed a simple stumping.
Zampa followed that up with the wicket of Ravindra Jadeja and his double wicket maiden seemed to have sounded the death knell for the Indian innings. Three overs before that, Vijay Shankar tried one shot too many against Zampa and succumbed.
With the team in trouble and the series on the line, the match was perfectly set for India to watch the capabilities of its World Cup hopefuls. Both Rishabh Pant and Vijay Shankar got the starts but failed eventually, throwing away their wickets at untimely intervals. At this juncture, Australia had India by the scruff of their neck. But the pair of Kedar Jadhav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar batted sensibly to resurrect India’s hopes and take them closer to the target. However, once those two were back in the hut, it was curtains for India as the innings folded for 235.
Khawaja oozes class
After electing to bat first Australia began quite well with the pair of Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja bringing up their third half-century in this series. But it was Finch’s dismissal by Jadeja which sent a few alarms ringing about the surface as the ball gripped and spun sharply off the pitch. From thereon another 50-run partnership, this time between Handscomb and Khawaja took Australia to a commanding position (175/1 in 33 overs).
Usman Khawaja continued his stellar run by notching up his second hundred of the series. The southpaw reached the three-figure mark in 102 balls, slamming 10 fours and two sixes along the way. Prior to this match, Khawaja had registered scores of 50, 38, 104, 91, 51 and with a 100 on Wednesday took his tally to 351 for the entire series. Incidentally, three of Khawaja’s four highest ODI scores have come in his last three appearances for Australia. His 135 minute-stay at the crease came to an end when Bhuvneshwar Kumar finally got rid off him for 100.
The platform was set for a 300+ score and Australia was doing everything right till then- forcing India to dig a little deeper into their resources than they’d like. But Khawaja’s wicket brought India back into the match as a pumped-up Kohli threw the ball in disgust and rallied his troops to fight back from a sticky spot.
With a few overs, from 177/2 Australia was staring down the barrel at 223/7. As the ball became older shot making became difficult. Batsmen who came in simply couldn’t get going. This, in turn, helped India pull things back in the final 15 overs.
Despite the middle order capitulation, Australia put 272/9 on the board as 42 came off the last four overs, including a 19 run-over from Jasprit Bumrah.
Indian bowlers had mixed fortunes as the seamers began well but were then being milked for runs. Kuldeep Yadav (10-0-75-2) registered the second most expensive figures in ODI’s. Bumrah after conceding 14 in his first eight overs went for more than double in his last two. The last time a 250-plus score was chased down successfully at Delhi was in 1996. As it turned out, that remained the last time such an event has happened as Australia successfully defended their total.