Fans celebrate as they wait to enter JSCA Stadium to watch the 4th ODI match against Australia in Ranchi. (PTI photo)
With their bowlers in the firing line, it was just the start India would have dreamt of as the decision to blood Mohammad Shami and Jaydev Unadkat provided instant results.
Feeling the heat after failing to defend a 300-plus total at Mohali, the India bowlers came out firing on all cylinders in the fourth ODI on Wednesday.
The duo that replaced the struggling Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar infused life into the listless attack. Shami was a livewire, generating pace and movement with control.
Hitting 140 kph straightaway, Shami ended Aaron Finch’s fine run in the series, hitting the top of his middle-stump in his first over with a ball that jagged back off the seam. What also made Shami incisive was his ability to move the ball both ways.
He got left-hander Phil Hughes with one that left him after pitching, next ball he had George Bailey edging an away swinger to slip only for Virat Kohli to make the cardinal mistake of grabbing at the ball.
And when he crashed through Shane Watson’s defence, everyone was wondering why he was not played in the earlier games. Watson got a similar ball to Finch, only he tried to drive it on the front foot and the ball jagged back through the gate. Finch was rooted to his crease. It was 32 for three, Aussie openers had a rare flop in the series.
Since making his debut early this year, Shami has played 11 ODI games, but this could be the spell that could help him settle down in the team. The athletic bowler makes for a good sight as he sprints to the wicket, his delivery stride is good and the wrist position steady at release. His final figures read 8-1-42-3.
Left-arm Unadkat wasn’t as incisive, but bowled well with the new ball. On a day the bowlers lifted their game, the Indian fielding floundered. Apart from the Bailey let-off, four more catches were dropped. The Australia captain had another life on 35.
Bailey made 98. He got solid support from Glenn Maxwell (92 off 77), who was also reprieved in his 40s when Yuvraj Singh failed to hold on to a fierce cut at point.
For a change, India bowled well in the batting powerplay as well as the death overs. Vinay Kumar proved his utility when the fielding restrictions were on by claiming Bailey and Maxwell.
In the death, Dhoni used his slow bowlers to good effect although Australia managed to score 295. However, rain restricted India’s innings to 4.1 overs, but the washout means they have to wait for the No 1 ranking.