Never can I recollect a time when the mighty Aussies set sail with a side that wasn’t good enough. At the start of the series, there was a lot brewing at the horizon. India went into the side with phenomenal momentum from the Sri Lanka series whitewashing the helpless Lankans. Australia, on the other hand, was carrying around the burden of 8 defeats in away ODI’s.
FIRST ODI- The Dhoni-Pandya Blitz and Chepauk Downpour
The first ODI in Chepauk saw skipper Virat Kohli opting to bat first. What followed was carnage by Aussie pacers Cummins and Coulter-Nile, the latter snaring 3 wickets. India’s veteran finisher MS Dhoni and the newest recruit for the job Hardik Pandya played classy knocks to get the side to 281. Australia received the short end of the stick with the rains which delayed the start of the second innings. At the end of it all, Australia was chasing a T20 target of 164 from 21 overs. Barring a Maxwell counterattack, the Aussie batsmen were all sea and folded 21 runs short of the target.
SECOND ODI- Virat’s Day Out and The Kuldeep Riposte
Eden Gardens witnessed another Kohli brilliance who compiled 92 runs. However, the side could not ride the momentum as India posted only 252. The Men in Yellow played good guests by throwing everything away to fall 50 runs short. Bhuvi was phenomenal in picking up 3 wickets at an economy of 1.46. Kuldeep Yadav made a remarkable mid innings comeback with a sensational hat-trick and has forever earned a spot in the ‘Watch this if you are a proud Indian’YouTube videos henceforth. The only bright spot for Australia was Marcus Stoinis who braved all odds to score a half century.
THIRD ODI- Pandya Radiance and an Aussie Acquiescence
Steven Smith opted to bat and his trusted opener Aaron Finch came back to the side with a brilliant 124. Australia looked like it was set to score big, in excess of 350, only to be restricted to 293, credit to the spinners and death bowling. Still a daunting task nonetheless, the Indian openers made merry with half centuries each and Hardik Pandya, promoted to 4, made another 78 and thus comfortably chased down the target with 13 balls to spare and also sealed the series.
FOURTH ODI- Bengaluru Anomaly and the Warner Upturn
Bengaluru was treated to a run fest as Australia batted first and put up 334 runs. Warner made 124 and Finch 94 in the process as well. India fell short of the target by 21 runs, Kane Richardson being the primary wrecker in chief with 3 scalps. Australia finally managed to salvage a win and also put an end to its losing streak in away games. Kedar Jhadav, who was likely to lose his place to KL Rahul, clocked in a half century to ensure he retained his spot, atleast for now.
FIFTH ODI- An Envisaged Verdict and Aussie Abyss
Just another day at the office for both the sides and the final ODI at Nagpur saw Australia put up 242. In return, Rohit Sharma with a 125 ensured that the Men in Blue won the match by 7 wickets.Stoinis saw himself amongst the runs once again, but the collective performance of the Aussies was below par, such that I had to make this sentence up so I could fill space for the 5th ODI section.
Australia has had its moments aplenty, and yet let it slip, slipped on it themselves and went into slumber from thereon. Three batsmen in Warner, Finch and Stionis scored 648 runs in all, which is 54% of the total runs scored by the Australian batting line up.
The middle order batsmen Head, Handscomb, Maxwell and Wade made 270 runs from a combined 15 innings which is still lower than Rohit Sharma’s 296 runs from 5 innings.
Australia managed to pick up 30 wickets, nearly half by opening bowlers and only 6 by spinners. In contrast, the Indian wickets tally is more closely shared, with spinners picking up 18 and pacers picking up 20, and thus India has managed to put consistent pressure throughout the innings.
Runs-Rohit Sharma 296 runs at an average of 59.20
Wickets- Nathan Coulter-Nile 10 wickets at an average of 25.10
Man of the Series- Hardik Pandya 222 runs at an average of 55.50 and 6 wickets.
Fifth Umpire Champion of the Series- Marcus Stoinis , Nathan Coulter-Nile.
INDIA- Dilating Horizons
India was riding a high wave going into the series after whitewashing Sri Lanka. This series came as a serious relief as India was locking horns with a much better side, or that’s what we thought. India could do no wrong in this series. The Indian skipper was phenomenal in supporting the young spinners and Virat Kohli had also done a good job captaining the side. India had great starts in the series, with both bat and ball. The Indian openers added 540 runs together which included 3 century starts accounting for 39% of the total runs scored by India. The opening bowler combination is another plus. However, Bumrah has turned out to be that one kid who studied well and yet failed, having picked up only 5 wickets despite great bowling. The spinners have stepped up and answered the skipper’s call behind the stumps picking up 16 wickets. Paradoxically, Virat Kohli not making his usual truckload is India’s greatest boon as it helped India bring the middle order under fire and has worked wonders. KL Rahul sitting out, however, is a disappointment and you cannot ignore the class that he is for too long. India has ticked a lot of boxes and opened up new ones for experimenting. Sitting pretty right at the top in the ODI rankings, the Men in Blue have indeed sights set on the mega event two years down the lane.
AUSTRALIA- Ponderous Shadows
India’s pace bowlers troubled Aussie Openers. The incongruence of the statement sums up the series. Warner and Smith are the most experienced batsmen and reached the 100-match milestone each (which is more matches than Pandya,Kuldeep,Chahal and Bumrah combined) and yet, Warner was walking out in Aussie yellow for the first time in India and Smith had featured in a handful. While David Warner had to forget his seniority in the side, it was time someone reminded Maxwell of his. Making a habit of walking down the track to Chahal has caused the Big Show to walk straight out of the side on this one. Finch (250 runs at 83.33) and Stoinis (153 runs at 76.50) shone brightly while Warner and Smith fired in gaps. Coulter-Nile and Cummins have made life tougher for Starc and Hazlewood with the former leading the charts with 10 wickets and latter pulling a Bumrah with only 5 wickets despite brilliant bowling. Australian spinners Zampa and Agar didn’t turn a lot of heads, just as they failed to turn the ball. It is time Australia dug deep into its trunk full of pace bowlers and found a spinner very soon. The only tenable reason behind Wade’s position in the side is his role in ‘mental disintegration’ behind the sums as 34 runs in 4 innings does not repose confidence. Australia has had their moments and then let it slip. No Aussie unit can give up and just hope for the partnership to break or mistake from the batsmen. You know the Kangaroos are not in the best of sorts when their sledging, above all, is below par.
Growing up admiring the aggressive and brash demeanor of the Australian outfit, this series comes as a major frustration and disappointment, a lot of which might have reflected above. With pay disputes, contract issues, T20 franchise domination, ICC Champions trophy exit and a lot more, Steve Smith and his men have a lot on their plate. And yet, I believe strongly that better times are round the corner, for if there is any side that can rise up from such a hole, it has to be Australia. Fast forward to 2019 and Australia will play a major role in those conditions. No matter what the circumstance, the Kangaroos will not retreat licking its wounds.
Cricaddict and Foodie