India vs Australia, 3rd ODI: Hits and Misses
The Indian cricket team did complete justice to their newly-acquired Number 1 status in ODI cricket when they thumped Australia by five wickets to take an unaccessible 3-0 lead in the 5-match series against the visitors.
The most commendable aspects of this victory were the tremendous comeback that Indian bowlers made to neutralize Australia's fiery start and the crucial performances with the bat from Hardik Pandya and Manish Pandey.
The win has propelled India to its sixth consecutive series win and 9th consecutive match win. Virat Kohli is on the cusp of breaking and making records as a captain and now has as many as 30 ODI wins in just 38 matches.
Let us look at the hits and misses of the third ODI:
#1 Hit: The Indian opening pair
After reducing Australia to a below-par total 293 in the first innings, India carried their momentum into the second innings. Openers Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma ensured that they did fall to the pace of Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter Nile and slowly stitched a beautiful partnership between them with every passing over.
India raced to 139-0 in less than 22 overs, thereby building a strong foundation for the batsmen to follow. Both the batsmen scored in excess of 70 runs and did not let Smith and his then-sledging men get into their heads.
Also, when Rahane and Rohit are batting with confidence, a beautiful spectacle ensues. The stakes were high for both the batsmen and they had to perform in this game to keep the naysayers at bay. Both did so gorgeously while hitting some textbook-perfect shots through the length of their innings.
#2 Miss: Glenn Maxwell
After getting off to impressive starts in the first two games, the swashbuckling Australian batsman could only make 5 runs off 13 deliveries in the third.
He found himself falling to the wrist-spin of Yuzvendra Chahal yet again. His dismissal read the same words that it did in the second ODI: st Dhoni b Chahal. The only difference between the two was that the Kings XI Punjab batsman missed a delivery on the offside yesterday, as opposed to the first one, which was a wide down the leg side.
The 28-year-old has been a part of the Indian Premier League for a long time now and was expected to shine in this series by extracting knowledge from the same. However, he has failed to touch his best and it is too late now to make anything of the ODI series.
India have already stamped a victorious mark on the five-match series and the best that the Australia can hope for is a narrow, 3-2 defeat in the series now.
#3 Hit: Hardik Pandya
India's investment in Hardik Pandya is bearing fruits in every next game that the youngster plays for the side. His stature as a cricketer is on the rise and his tremendous ability is being honed in different situations on the field.
After India lost Sharma and Rahane in the middle, head coach Ravi Shastri thought of promoting Pandya to Number 4. The move proved to be right on the money. The youngster scored 78 off just 72 deliveries and hit some sensational shots in the innings.
He also managed to stay at the crease when Australia managed to get a foot through the door after dismissing Kohli and Kedar Jadhav in quick succession.
He was successful with the ball as well. He was the one to break the increasingly dangerous partnership between David Warner and Aaron Finch by dismissing the former to give India a breakthrough in the first innings.
#4 Miss: Kedar Jadhav
Kedar Jadhav's 4th ball dismissal yesterday was nothing but an embodiment of his failure to create an impact on this entire series so far. The man from Pune got good starts in the first two ODIs, but could not convert them into big, imposing knocks.
He failed altogether yesterday and perished with just 2 runs against his name. What makes his dismissal more striking is that he flashed hard at the 4th delivery that he faced in the game and did not give himself the time to settle into the chase.
He had a golden opportunity to make a mark after Kohli's dismissal, but only ended up creating problems for India after his own.
The 32-year-old has been quite handy with the ball of late but has not been able to step it up with the bat. He has two more chances to prove himself in this series and it's essential that he grapples onto them with both hands.
#5 Hit: Aaron Finch
Till Aaron Finch was at the crease, Australia looked powerful, menacing and threatening. As soon as he was dismissed, they shed their lion-skin to go from the threatening to the threatened.
That's how strong an impact Finch had on the game with his magnificent hundred in the first innings.
India suddenly did not have answers to the questions that he asked and the right-handed batsman continued to do what he does best, which is to take the bowlers to the cleaners! He scored a big knock of 124 in 125 deliveries. It was powered by 12 fours and 4 mammoth sixes.
He also stitched a 50-run stand with Warner and followed it up with a riveting 154-run partnership with his captain. It was his dismissal that led to Australia's unravelling, as the visitors could go up to just 293-6 in spite of cruising at 224-2 at one stage of the game.
#6 Miss: Peter Handscomb
Australian wicketkeeper, Matthew Wade, had a nightmare of a time in the first two games of the series. He couldn't score past single digits in both the games, got into a feud with Kohli in the second game and struggled to stay upright in the extracting humidity of Kolkata at Eden Gardens.
His misery ended when he was snubbed for Peter Handscomb for the third game of the series.
However, it seems like bad fortune has latched itself onto Australian keepers right now. Handscomb had a chance of imprinting his name on the game when he came into the fold after Maxwell's dismissal. However, the youngster, who impressed heavily in the Test series against India earlier this year, could only score a hapless 3 off 7 deliveries.
He will get a couple more games in the series to make a case for his selection in the Ashes to follow, and it remains to see if he can stay focused enough to achieve the same, considering the strength and diversity that India has in its bowling reserves right now.