India’s main spinners, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, were leaking runs, an easy catch had been put down off the well-set Aaron Finch, and the game was absolutely neck-and-neck. Australia were 99 for two after 11 overs, progressing at nine-an-over. At the same stage, India had been 97 for one, at 8.81 an over.
That is when part-timer Yuvraj Singh came on to bowl. It was going to be the crucial over and Australia would have fancied their chances, with their most devastating batsman, Glenn Maxwell, up against a part-time bowler.
Off his fourth delivery, Yuvraj brought the house down at the Melbourne Cricket Ground by outfoxing ‘Big Show’ on his home turf by slipping one wide on seeing the batsman give him the charge. The left-armer, who was described as ‘pie-chucker’ by Kevin Pietersen, gave away only three runs in the over as a dazed Maxwell took off his pads.
Soaking in pressure
With Finch batting on 70 and Watson starting with two fours in an over off young seamer Hardik Pandya, the pressure was on Yuvraj. But the veteran of many a tough campaign gave nothing away to derail Australia’s momentum with a four-run over.
Ultimately, he will be judged on how he shapes up as a batsman, but so far on his return Yuvraj Singh has impressed while carrying out whatever he role he has been asked to play. Like in the first game, he manned his area well in the field and put up an improved bowling display, which turned the match on its head.
It was all downhill for Australia from that point. In their pursuit of the victory target of 185, after Yuvraj’s two overs for seven runs, Watson and Finch were looking at an equation of 66 off 36 balls. In two balls, Watson was out caught and bowled trying to smash Ravindra Jadeja, and five balls later, Finch was run out, sounding the death knell for the chase.
India’s victory, however, was again set up by their top-order with Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli putting up another spectacular show, to the delight of the hordes of Indian fans who had thronged the Big G. The way the game started, with the home team pacers bowling with fire and imagination in the first four overs, Australia had no inkling of what was to come.
Only 17 runs came off the first four overs, but Rohit and Dhawan ran amok in the next four to more than make up for the tentative start. By the end of the eight overs, India were galloping at 77 for no loss.
The turning point of the game was the 11th over in both innings. India lost the dangerous-looking Dhawan at that mark for a 32-ball 42, but Kohli ensured they never lost momentum. In a spectacular show of hitting with finesse, he cut free with three fours off a John Hastings over, the 14th of the innings.
Buoyed by a raucous crowd, Kohli kept on hitting in the gaps to remain unbeaten on a 33-ball 59 for another Man-of-the-Match award. India had looked a demoralised unit at the end of the fourth ODI. It was to Kohli’s credit that, when nobody gave his team a chance, he declared they will be going out to make it 4-4. After Friday’s 27-run win, it stands at 3-4 now.
The Twenty20 series has been clinched, but for Kohli and Co, Sydney will still be like a final.