Such has been Australia’s domination that India seem to be afflicted by a mental block against them in the series.
This moment from Sunday illustrates the mindset. At 259 for six in the 45th over, Glenn Maxwell played Ishant Sharma to square leg and set off. The ball went straight to Umesh Yadav and Maxwell turned around to watch haplessly. He was left at the mercy of the fielder. If Yadav had hit, the batsman would have been out by yards. But he hesitated. And with that India’s last chance in the game had gone.
The hosts duly completed a three-wicket win at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, going 3-0 up and rendering the last two games of the five match one-day series inconsequential.
With Maxwell at the crease, there was no way India could have stopped Australia from getting to the target. And moments like the one Yadav spurned can change the course of the game. It was a difficult chance because Yadav could sight only one stump; but had he thrown and missed, at most it would have cost a run. Had he hit, India could have got into a position from where they could have forced victory.
At the end of that over, Australia needed 35 off 30 balls. In the next over, bowled by Ravindra Jadeja, James Faulkner hit two of the first three balls for fours to make it 26 runs at less than run-a-ball. When Maxwell was finally out, the scores were level. The huge contingent of Indian fans that had turned up had been silenced by the local hero.
What will hurt India is that the fine showing of their top order has gone waste through the series. Usually, the subcontinent batsmen are the ones known to struggle in these conditions. Here, India had a batsman scoring a century in all three games. In the only innings Rohit Sharma flopped, Kohli assumed responsibility for holding the innings together. He lit up the MCG with a run-a-ball 117, his first ODI hundred against Australia in Australia, but it proved another hundred in a losing cause.
Virat built the platform with Shikhar Dhawan (68) and then combined with Ajinkya Rahane (50) to help India reach 295. At the huge MCG, any total is worth 15-20 runs more.
The problem for India again was the inability of the bowlers and fielders to put any sort of pressure on the Australia batsmen. From the start, the home team was effortlessly scoring at five to six runs an over. And in the few overs they had to take risks by trying to hit a boundary and maintain the run rate, they were being served loose deliveries with frustrating regularity.
After two impressive showings, pacer Barinder Sran bowled too full, allowing the batsmen to drive freely. Yadav bowled fast and extracted movement but Shaun Marsh and Steve Smith had little trouble in providing another solid platform for Australia.
The bright spot for India was Jadeja. Finding some assistance from the wicket, the left-armer got rid of dangermen Smith and George Bailey to have the hosts in a spot of bother. When Shaun Marsh was out at the total of 167, it looked like anybody’s game. But Maxwell came out and showed that this Australian batting is not just about the top order.