By BV Swagath
George Bailey’s men were once again left scratching their heads in disbelief as India for the second time in this series pulled off a monumental run chase. This time it was at Nagpur, the target 10 runs lesser than Jaipur but the pitch more challenging for the batsmen. Once again, India just needed its top three batsmen to successfully deal with the run chase. The 7-match series is now leveled 2-2 with two matches abandoned due to rain. The decider of the series will be played on the 2nd of November at Bengaluru.
Chasing the tall target of 351, Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma set up a perfect launchpad with a massive opening stand. Virat Kohli sustained the tempo and finished the match with yet another ODI Century to his name. India pulled off what was the third highest run chase in ODI history by 6 wickets with three balls to spare.
Rohit and Dhawan took their time and came up with a steady start, seeing off the early threat of Mitchell Johnson. The pair consolidated without showing much hurry with Rohit Sharma keen on rotating the strike and Shikhar Dhawan taking the responsibility of finding the boundaries. By drinks, India were 82 for no loss in 15 overs. Dhawan had an early life when his cut shot was dropped by Maxwell after which the left-hander made most of his luck.
After drinks, the required run rate for the hosts had to be brought down and as a result the opening pair changed gears. The openers took India to 178 in 29.3 overs before Rohit Sharma dragged a pull shot off a long hop from Aaron Finch to Faulkner in the deep. Rohit scored a sensible 79 from 89 balls with 7 fours and 3 sixes.
Virat Kohli replaced Rohit and again wasted no time like in Jaipur and came up with a flurry of boundaries. Shikhar Dhawan was more than happy to take the backseat and get through to a 4th ODI century. But soon after celebrating his century, Dhawan got bowled round his legs missing a straight and full ball from Faulkner. The 27-year-old finished with 100 from 102 balls with 11 fours while taking India to 234 for 2 in 36 overs.
Kohli and India received a setback with Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh falling in the space of three balls in the 43rd over. Raina (16 from 15 balls) was unlucky to be given caught behind in a blind hook off Mitchell Johnson. Yuvraj disappointed yet again, getting bowled for a 2-ball duck to a reversing inswinger from Johnson.
The match was in the balance with India needing 61 runs from 43 balls. Had Kohli got out too, India could have slipped into a losing position as the Aussie bowling, in particular from Mitchell Johnson was red hot. Skipper MS Dhoni found it difficult to handle but kept his cool to give the strike to Kohli, who changed into the final gear just when the time was right to wrap up the chase in style. The 24-year-old smashed his 17th ODI century while remaining unbeaten with a heroic 115 from just 66 balls with as many as 18 fours and a six. Dhoni complemented him with 25* from 23 balls.
Australia Batting: Australia ran away with a massive total of 350 for 6 in the Sixth ODI at Nagpur with Skipper George Bailey playing the innings of his life. Shane Watson made most of his luck to score a 9th ODI century to muscle the Aussies with his Skipper to the big total on a pitch that seemed to be tailor-made for the Indian spinners.
India was in great position dismissing the Aussie openers with just 45 on the board in 11.1 overs. Phil Hughes (13) was out in the 7th over pulling Bhuvneshwar Kumar to squareleg while the dangerous Aaron Finch was clean bowled off R Ashwin’s first delivery of the match. Finch had stepped out for a predetermined slog but was cleaned up by a full length straighter one which angled away.
The pitch was quite slow and the spinners were extracting turn. The pressure was building up on the visitors and Watson played a terrible slog sweep from outside off against the turn off Jadeja to get caught in the infield. Just when Jadeja was celebrating the wicket, the Umpires got the confirmation that the bowler had overstepped to allow Watson to bat again.
Watson wasn’t pleased with his shot selection but soon along with Bailey, got the measure of the Indian spinners and plundered them for plenty. The spin trio of India fell apart as the two right-handers pulled and lofted with ease to set a great platform for the visitors. Eventually in the batting powerplay, Watson was dismissed, cleaned up by a superb inswinger through the gate from Shami. By then Watson smashed 102 from 94 balls with 13 fours and 3 sixes. His partnership with Bailey had added 168 runs for the 3rd wicket. India got a breather when Glenn Maxwell was caught by a leaping Bhuvneshwar off Ashwin’s bowling which certainly saved a six atleast.
At 224 or 4 in 36 overs, the Aussies got another century run partnership to get to a supreme total. George Bailey got to his 2nd ODI century in 84 balls and converted that into 156 from 114 balls with 13 fours and half a dozen sixes. Bailey got out in the final over only taking the Aussies on the brink of 350. Adam Voges contributed to the total scoring an unbeaten 44 from 38 balls with 5 fours.
For India, Amit Mishra, who was playing his first ODI in 10 years at home, was taken for 78 runs in 10 wicketless overs. Jadeja went for 68 in 10 while Ashwin conceded 64 in his 10. Shami Ahmed bowled quite well although he wasn’t spared in the end.
Toss and Teams: India have won the toss and asked Australia to bat first in the 6th ODI at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha, Nagpur. The homeside have gone in with three spinners with Amit Mishra replacing Unadkat. Australia remain unchanged and they are one win away from sealing the Series.
India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (C&WK), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami
Australia: Aaron Finch, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, George Bailey (C), Adam Voges, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin (WK), James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty