Australia vs India | Wednesday 20 January | Manuka Oval | Canberra | 05:10
Glenn Maxwell stole the show as he guided Australia to a third-straight successful run chase as well as Australia’s 17th consecutive home ODI win against an increasingly frustrated Indian side at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday.
The teams will now head the Manuka Oval in Canberra for what will be a bit of a dead rubber for the fourth One Day International.
To Win Match
Aside from wrapping up the series in emphatic style, the Australian public would have been most impressed with Glenn Maxwell’s coming of age. The unorthodox number five is no stranger to the Australian limited overs setup having played in 58 ODIs and 25 T20 Internationals. He has been described by many as being too self-indulgent, opting to play switch-hits and trick shots, often to his own demise.
His masterful innings on Saturday morning, however, was anything but reckless and flashy. He came in at a time when Australia needed a bit of middle-order steel after George Bailey had perished after a superb delivery from Jadeja drew him out of his crease, his back foot lifting as he tentatively prodded at the ball, Dhoni whipped the bails off the stumps and Australia were 150-3. Maxwell adopted a more mature approach to his batting, reaching his half-century in 50 balls.
From there he accelerated, never losing sight of the Indian total as wickets fell at regular intervals at the other end. The Melbourne native would guide his side to within a run of victory as he perished, attempting to bring up his century in style. Having hit the two previous Umesh Yadav deliveries for boundaries, the MCG crowd were expecting more of the same the following ball. However, a length ball climbed steeply on Maxwell as he attempted to slap it over cover. Shikhar Dhawan claiming a simple enough catch at mid-off. The damage had already been done, though, and James Faulkner would prod the next delivery wide of point, claiming the single and the series for Australia.
Maxwell wasn’t the only batsman to impress for Australia, though. Shaun Marsh again looked solid at the top of the order as he claimed his second successive ODI half century. It would prove to be a vital knock, even if it did come slightly slowly. Steve Smith also looked in good touch, on his way to 41 before he was dismissed by Jadeja.
John Hasting did the damage with the ball after Smith won the toss and put the Indians into bat. The Melbourne Stars quick – who is more familiar with the MCG than many of his compatriots – bowled superbly on his way to career-best ODI figures of 4-58. Kane Richardson and Faulkner picked up one stick apiece while it proved to be another difficult day with the ball for Scott Boland and Glenn Maxwell.
With the series wrapped up, I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if we saw Nathan Lyon get a bowl in Canberra as the World T20 in India looms on the horizon. David Warner could possibly return to the side following his omission from the last two matches because of paternity leave. Therein lies the conundrum for the Aussie selectors: do they persist with Marsh who has been superb with the bat in the absence of Warner? Do they drop / rest Finch? Or do they allow Warner to spend more time with the new addition to his family in a bid to give Marsh more experience at this level? Personally, I’d like to see Marsh get an extended run in the side alongside Finch with Warner returning to the fold once the T20s get under way at the Adelaide Oval on 29 January.
Half-centuries from Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane and a superb 100 for Virat Kohli weren’t enough as India failed for the third time in succession to defend a total against a make-shift Australian batting line-up.
Dhawan repaid his captain faith as well as the selectors as he notched up his 16th ODI half-century. While the knock would have given him a bit of confidence moving forward, his failure to score quickly – his 68 runs came off of 91 balls at a strike rate of 74.72 – ultimately cost his side in the end after he fell to John Hastings, as he walked across his stumps looking to flick the ball to the deep square leg boundary.
Kohli played an immense innings, scoring a run-a-ball 117 as he propelled India’s total to a rather underwhelming 295-6 in their 50 overs. The 27-year-old Delhi native opted to rotate the strike and pick the gaps in the Australian field. Only 40 of his 117 runs came in boundaries, hitting seven fours and two sixes, in a mature innings. He would eventually fall in the 47th over attempting to slap Hasting’s through the covers, only to ping the ball straight down Bailey’s throat.
The Indian selectors will have been kicking themselves for not persisting with two specialist spinners after Jadeja found a lot of joy on the dry MCG wicket. One feels that if Ravi Ashwin had started, the men in blue could well have kept themselves in the series with a victory. As it turned out, they went for the part-timer Gurkeerat Singh who toiled admirably with ball in hand but to no avail.
So where to now for the beleaguered Indians? I definitely think that they need to score more quickly if they are going to defend totals against such a belligerent Australian batting line-up. They will also have to be sharper in the field. Dhoni didn’t hide his frustration when referring to a couple of misfields. “Today I felt on and off the bowling was decent. We did let ourselves down with our fielding. The best fielders in our group actually left quite a few deliveries. You accumulate those 15 runs or maybe more, then the turnaround could’ve happened. I felt in this game, it was the fielding that let us down.”
Looking ahead, I do think Ashwin will come back into the side for Singh. He simply offers India far too much in terms of wicket-taking threat to be left out in any form of the game. He can also grab his side a quick-fire 30 down at the bottom of the order.
Verdict: Australia 4/10
India haven’t played particularly badly in the series, however, they’ve really not troubled the Australians at any point in the series. I’d be quite comfortable backing the Aussies to get the job done here again at 4/10.