Usman Khawaja's century and a brilliant bowling display by Adam Zampa helped Australia beat India by 35 runs in New Delhi to clinch a bilateral ODI series after two years. (Image credit: Twitter)
Rohit Sharma was dropped on 52 and 53 off Adam Zampa. It seemed Australia’s jinx would be prolonged. However, Zampa got Rohit stumped and India faced an uphill task. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Kedar Jadhav staged a brave fightback with a magnificent partnership of 91, hitting sixes and getting close to the target to give the Kotla faithful some hope. However, the asking rate was too much and when Bhuvneshwar (46) and Jadhav (44) departed in quick succession, Australia sensed a victory. The bowling effort, combined with Usman Khawaja’s second century of the series which helped Australia reach such a good total on the Feroz Shah Kotla deck, gave Australia a 35-run win to register a remarkable series win on Wednesday.
The win for Australia was not only special, but it was significant. It was their first ODI series win since 2017 and it was their first in India since 2009. They had won a match in Delhi after 21 years and they registered a series win from being initially 0-2 down for the first time in their history. This was India's first loss in an ODI series at home since they lost 2-3 to South Africa in 2015. With the win having come so close before the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 and with Steve Smith and David Warner, their two best batsmen expected to make a return to the side, suddenly things look very rosy for the five-time world champions.
Chasing 273, India got off to a confident start with Shikhar Dhawan hitting a couple of boundaries but he edged a delivery from Pat Cummins to fail on his home ground. The capacity crowd sprung to life when King Kohli entered and the Indian captain looked in great touch. However, on 20, Marcus Stoinis produced a delivery which bounced a bit more and the edge was taken by Alex Carey. The pin-drop silence of the crowd summed up the mood. In a chase, Australia had broken the spine of the Indian batting line-up.
Rishabh Pant earned a promotion and he got going with a six but he perished to Nathan Lyon. Vijay Shankar also hit a six off Zampa but in the quest for aggression, he miscued a pull shot and was caught at long on by Usman Khawaja. Rohit, after equaling Sourav Ganguly’s record of second-fastest Indian to 8000 runs, reached his 41st fifty but after surviving two dropped chances, he was stumped for 54 as his bat slipped out of his hand while attempting a slog. When Ravindra Jadeja was stumped for 1 in the same over, it seemed the game was up but Jadhav and Bhuvneshwar ensured India did not go down without a fight. In the end, the fightback came too late and when both Bhuvneshwar and Jadhav fell in the quest for big shots to long off and deep midwicket respectively, Australia had repaed the reward for posting a good total on a tough deck, made possible by Khawaja’s brilliance at the top.
Australia won an important toss and chose to bat and once again, they got an excellent start with Khawaja and Aaron Finch stitching a partnership of over 50. The 76-run opening stand ended when Ravindra Jadeja struck in his first over, flattening Finch’s (27) off stump with a ball that spun away.
Handscomb and Khawaja built upon the steady partnership, with the left-hander tackling the spinners brilliantly by using his feet and employing the sweep on a consistent basis. The left-hander notched up his second century and broke David Warner’s tally of 367 runs in a five-match ODI series in India. However, on reaching the milestone, he immediately perished to Bumrah by driving uppishly with Kohli taking the catch.
That resulted in a collapse which saw Australia lose three wickets for seven runs. Ashton Turner, the match-winner at Mohali, threatened to take the game away but when he fell for 20, caught by Kuldeep off Jadeja, Australia struggled for momentum. Jhye Richardson frustrated India by slamming four boundaries in the 48th over bowled by Jasprit Bumrah and his 34-run stand with Pat Cummins ensured Australia had a total which could be defended well.
This win for Australia, following their 2-0 win in the Twenty20 Internationals, will go a long way in regaining their confidence, something which was shattered in the aftermath of the ball-tampering scandal. However, with this win, they seem to be peaking at the right time and having won against the number two-ranked side in their own home conditions, the boost needed for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 could not be any better.