The Men in Blue narrowly avoided a second successive whitewash with a hard-fought 13-run win over hosts Australia in the third and final One-Day International (ODI) in Canberra on Wednesday. Just like in New Zealand at the start of the year, the inability of the bowling attack to pick up wickets on good batting tracks resulted in India coming second best to the Aussies.
India’s limited bowling resources meant the batsmen were chasing daunting targets in excess of 370 in the first couple of matches at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Though they tried hard, it was too much for a batting line-up minus white-ball great Rohit Sharma, and scoreboard pressure led to the batsmen perishing in the end.
After the series loss in New Zealand in February, Indian captain Virat Kohli had said that he was not too worried about the result since the focus was more on T20Is and Tests this year. COVID-19 forced the postponement of this year’s Twenty20 World Cup to 2022, while India will host the next edition next year.
The Indian fielders did not help the cause by putting on an awful display. Misfields, poor catching and overthrows were the norm as the Indians looked jaded and underprepared on their return to international cricket.
Australia on the other hand were imperious with the bat. Captain Aaron Finch called the coin correct in the first two matches and set the tone for the innings along with his opening partner David Warner.
Steve Smith, as he invariably does, tormented the Indians. Glenn Maxwell made up for a disappointing IPL season by smashing the Indian bowlers to all parts of the field in the death overs.
Hardik Pandya's batting was the silver lining for India. The Baroda all-rounder, playing purely as a batsman, displayed maturity to make a fist of the steep chase in the opening game and then was involved in a 150-run stand for the unbeaten sixth wicket along with Ravindra Jadeja to take India past the 300-run mark in the final one-dayer.
Cause for concern
Jasprit Bumrah's lack of wickets, especially up front, hurt India big time. The pace spearhead though showed signs of getting back to his best in the final ODI.
India sorely missed the injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The experienced medium-pacer had played a big role in their 2-1 series win the last time they toured Australia in 2019. Navdeep Saini went for plenty in the first two matches and to make matters worse the Delhi pacer was not fully fit. His replacement Shardul Thakur was impressive in the lone appearance picking up 3/51.
The Aussies did not allow leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal to really settle down, while left-arm spinner Jadeja fared better though he struggled to pick up wickets.
The absence of a sixth bowler compounded Kohli’s problems and he was forced to use a not fully-fit Pandya in the second match.
Indians have very little time to regroup as the T20I series begins tomorrow. Another series loss is on the cards unless the whole side raises the level of game. The signs are ominous.