Though George Bailey, on the eve of the match, said his team believes in batting first on slow Indian wickets, he didn’t think twice before electing to field here on Saturday — prompted by the dew factor.
The Australian captain’s decision, initially, appeared to have backfired with Indian skipper MS Dhoni plundered an unbeaten 121-ball 139. However, Ishant Sharma’s obsession with short-pitched deliveries brought visitors back from the brink as they sealed a four-wicket win with three balls to spare at the PCA Stadium.
James Faulkner was the hero of the Aussie innings, hitting 64 off just 29 deliveries in Australia’s 304-run mammoth chase. His innings contained two boundaries and six huge hits over the rope.
Faulkner joined his well-set partner Adam Voges (76*) when the scoreboard was 213 in the 42nd over. The match looked almost over, for the visitors needed 91 more from the remaining 8.5 overs with no recognised batsman left in the dressing room.
Everything was going as per the plan for Dhoni before he turned to Ishant to bowl the 48th over.
Ishant will never forget the treatment he was meted out by Faulkner in the next six deliveries. After hitting his first ball to boundary, he dispatched the next four to the maximum to give Australia their first glimpse of victory. The over yielded 30 runs.
From 44 off 18 balls before Ishant’s over, it was only a matter of keeping nerves for the two Aussies to score the remaining 14 from the next two overs.
Ishant has been India’s most expensive bowler in the first three ODIs. Though, his first seven overs cost him 33 but his habit of pitching short probably sealed his fate. Aussie batsmen relished his 130-odd speed short deliveries to take a 2-1 lead in the ongoing seven-match series.
Offie Ashwin kept the interest in the match alive by giving just five runs in the innings’ penultimate over. That left Dhoni with the only option of asking another medium-pacer R Vinay Kumar to bail him out with in the remaining nine runs.
Vinay started with a full toss but Voges failed to take more than a single on it. That brought Faulkner again to complete the formalities. After completing a double off the first ball, Faulkner finished the matters in style by duly honouring another of Vinay’s full toss over mid-wicket boundary for a six.
Earlier, Dhoni and his deputy Virat Kohli helped India amass 303 after being asked to bat first.
India were reduced to 76 for four against a testing spell of Mitchell Johnson. In-form opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan was back in the pavilion without any serious contribution for the first time in the series.
Suresh Raina (17) had a turbulent time during his brief stay in the middle while Yuvraj Singh only went in for a stroll.
Kohli started from where he left in Jaipur. The way he hit the ball hard was enough to suggest that he only had a two day’s rest before resuming his unfinished knock from 100. He was the only top-order batsman on Saturday who got well behind the short-pitched deliveries of Johnson.
And what better than a senior partner like Dhoni on the other end. The two steadied the Indian innings adding 72 in the next 16.4 overs, with Kohli playing the lead role and Dhoni complementing with occasional boundaries. Kohli’s departure created yet another panic as Ravindra Jadeja, too, left in a hurry at 154 for six in 32nd over.
Dhoni, who was struggling with right ankle twist till now, took this opportunity to play yet another heroic knock. The skipper scored his first 50 off 77 balls, but needed just 30 more to reach his ninth ton.
MSD’s 5K run
MS Dhoni reached 5,000 runs as ODI captain, and took the least number of innings to do so. He is the seventh captain, and the third Indian, to achieve the feat...
127 MS Dhoni
131 Ricky Ponting
135 Graeme Smith
136 Sourav Ganguly
151 Mohammad Azharuddin
157 Arjuna Ranatunga