Axar Patel bounced back from an ordinary performance in Bengaluru © BCCI
Until the last day of the five-match ODI series, India were about to win it without a single centurion. Rohit Sharma’s excellent handling of a slow, grippy pitch to score 125 at a strike-rate of 114.87 – when everyone that faced at least 20 balls had to settle for 88 runs per 100 balls or less – deserves praise. But his job was made just a touch easy by the bowlers responding well to another tough situation.
Australia were 100 for 1 in the 20th over with David Warner batting on 50. But they slumped 118 for 4 by the 25th with Kedar Jadhav (1 for 48) and Axar Patel (3 for 38) doing most of the damage. Then Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar closed out the innings so well that Australia lost five wickets for the addition of 52 in the last 10 overs. Bumrah had cost 37 runs in his first five overs but he wrapped up with 2 for 51, including a wicket maiden in the 45th.
Rohit, India’s vice- captain, praised this ability of his bowlers to bounce back when the team needed it most. “To restrict Australia to 242 on this particular wicket wasn’t easy, because they are a solid batting line-up and especially with the opening partnership they got,” he said. “Even in the last game, we thought 350-360 would be on the board, but we pulled it back and that’s been the hallmark of this bowling unit throughout the tournament. We have pulled the game back at the crucial time and that has allowed our batters to go and play their game.”
In Chennai, after the batting flopped, India needed a leg up from Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. The wristspinners took 5 for 63, bowling nine out of the 21 overs in a rain-shortened game.
Then in Kolkata, where apart from Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, no one was able to get into the 30s, Bhuvneshwar’s new-ball swing was so vicious that Warner, a soon-to-be 100 match veteran said they were the most difficult conditions he had faced in ODI cricket. India defended 252 with Kuldeep taking a hat-trick.
Indore presented the best chance for runs but Australia won the toss and it was their opener Aaron Finch who made the first century of the series. But he fell, leaving his team at 224 for 2 in the 38th over, and soon after they were kept to a mere 294 off 50 overs.
Kuldeep, having been punished for bowling too full on a tiny ground, dismissed the set batsmen Finch (124) and Smith (63). Chahal later got rid of Maxwell for a third time in three games. After that Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah showed why they are perhaps the most potent bowling combination in the world at the end of an innings.
The bowlers’ success has been because they’ve stuck to their brief, of trying to attack even when Australia have been on top. “We’ve played in these conditions so many times and they understand that they need to keep sticking to their strength,” Rohit said. “One boundary here and there doesn’t make a difference. That’s been their attitude throughout the tournament and we go out in the middle to take wickets, not to look to get the strike-rate down.
“All the bowlers who participated in this tournament have gone with this mindset of taking wickets. When you’re doing that you will obviously strike at some point during the game and pull the match back towards you. That is what these guys have done, all the spinners and the fast bowlers as well. All the compliments should go to them as well, the way they have bowled as a bowling unit throughout the tournament.”
Rohit was also highly appreciative of Rahane’s contribution in the 4-1 series victory – four successive fifties as an opener in Shikhar Dhawan’s absence.
“We have played a lot of cricket together in Mumbai and we understand each other and we know each other’s game really well,” Rohit said. “We talk a lot in the middle, about when we need to take risk and when we need not. These are the little things that really help in building a partnership. In the last three games, we’ve got hundred-run partnerships and that’s only through the communication we’ve had in the middle.
“It’s important that you keep talking to your partner, making him comfortable and it goes the other way as well. And he has played really well throughout the tournament, scoring four fifties in the last four games and he’s shown a lot of maturity as well handling the new ball. Whatever conditions you play, handling the new ball is pretty important and he did that pretty well.”
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo