Cricket

Khawaja, Zampa guide Australia to series win


AUSTRALIA’S TOUR OF INDIA, 2019

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Zampa had Rohit and Jadeja stumped in a double-wicket maiden that turned the game on its head. © AFP

The 29th over of India’s chase should have proved to be the decisive one in the all-to-play-for contest. Adam Zampa – bowling his seventh over – had Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja stumped in a double-wicket maiden. India were left with a relatively new batsman at the crease – Kedar Jadhav – in the company of a bowler with a bit of batting credentials – Bhuvneshwar Kumar – to see them through in a chase where the required rate had mounted over run-a-ball and 141 runs more needed. One more wicket would have exposed them to the tail, the lack of depth in India’s batting that had haunted them several times over in the recent past. The much talked about dew wasn’t showing up either to their rescue. The result was obvious, but Jadhav and Bhuvneshwar, with a mix of sense and audaciousness, pulled it deep.

India were left with needing 59 runs off the last five overs, with both the batsmen still at the crease – batting in their 40s. And then, the inevitable happened. Bhuvneshwar, who had steered the first ball of the 46th over for a boundary, perished in a bid to clear the infield off the last, opening the gate to India’s tail and shutting India’s chances in the chase.

Jadhav, who didn’t have many options but to go big, fell off the next, pulling Jhye Richardson to the fine leg fielder. For the formalities, India managed to reach 237, falling 35 runs short of Australia’s total of 272.

With the win at Feroz Shah Kotla, Australia sealed the series 3-2, ending their drought of six consecutive series defeats in a country that hadn’t lost one in the 50-over format since 2015, and not to Australia since 2009.

In chasing what turned out to be a competitive target set by Australia, India’s batting struggled to gather momentum. Barring a half-century stand between Rohit and Virat Kohli, no other top-order pair offered stability.

Rohit, who stroked his 41st ODI fifty kept running out of partners, who put in the initial hard work, only to be undone by the committed channels and variations of the Australian bowlers.

Dhawan seemed to have carried on his good form in to the game, only to play the wrong line and edging to the ‘keeper. Kohli, on the other hand, found the edge while attempting a hard slash. Rishabh Pant, who had just settled in with a six over deep mid wicket, attempted a forward defense only to edge Nathan Lyon to the first slip fielder.

Vijay Shankar, who could have made a strong case for himself to occupy the debated No. 4 slot, threw it away in an attempt to hit Zampa out of the park, but holed out to Khawaja at long on. With wickets falling at regular intervals, Rohit held back from going on the aggressive. His fall in the 29th over, followed by Ravindra Jadeja, courtesy multiple stumpings from Alex Carey, dented India’s chase.

Jadhav and Bhuvneshwar paired up to form a fighting alliance for the seventh wicket, stitching 99 runs in 17.1 overs. But for most parts of their partnership, they were playing the chase. And by the time, they gave a real hope of pulling it off, they fell.

The platform for Australia’s total was laid by Usman Khawaja’s second ton of the series and Peter Handscomb’s half-century. The visitors had elected to bat even the as dew was expected to play a part in the match.

While Aaron Finch looked scratchy, Khawaja carried forward his form and stroked some delightful flicks for boundaries to get going and put the Indian new ball pair – Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami on the back foot. By the time Finch’s struggle stay came to an end, the opening pair had already added 76.

His fall, in a way, proved helpful for Australia as Handscomb came with no such scratchiness to his batting. His fluency allowed Australia to attack from both ends, blunting the challenge of the left-arm spin duo – Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav. They even went on the aggressive against Jadhav, who was taken off attack after only a solitary over.

However, the turn of events took place in the 33rd over when Khawaja drove Bhuvneshwar straight to Kohli at short cover. One wicket brought two, and two brought many more. In a period of 3.3 overs, Australia were reduced from 175 for 1 to 182 for 4, including the fall of the two set batsmen.

The big-hitting middle order failed to cash in on the strong platform laid by Handscomb and Khawaja. Jadeja and Shami bagged a brace each while Bhuvneshwar snared three. The only merry period thereafter for the tourists came when, Jhye Richardson smashed Jasprit Bumrah for 19 runs in the 48th over, after he had conceded only 14 off his first eight.

The total may not have been what Australia would’ve liked given the start they got but it proved strong enough to defend on the day.

Brief Scores: Australia 272/9 in 50 overs (Usman Khawaja 100, Peter Handscomb 52; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3-48, Ravindra Jadeja 2-45) beat India 237 in 50 overs (Rohit Sharma 56, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 46; Adam Zampa 3-46, Pat Cummins 2-38) by 35 runs.

© Cricbuzz

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