India vs Australia: Sharma special scores over Smith-set marker
If it is India versus Australia at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Rohit Sharma transforms into an unstoppable force. In four innings at the venue, he aggregates 437 runs, 393 of which have come against Australia from three outings. Australia simply have no answer to Sharma here, and it was the case again on Sunday in the decider of the three-match one-day series.
After India’s bowlers restricted the visitors to 286 for nine, the opener made it a cakewalk by launching into a six-hitting spree on way to a match-winning 119 (128 balls, 8 fours, six sixes). His 29th ODI hundred, and eighth against Australia, eclipsed Steve Smith’s superb 131 (132 balls, 14 fours, one six) to hand India a 2-1 series victory to start the year with.
Skipper Virat Kohli also made amends for his dismal run at his IPL home venue, registering his highest score here on way to India’s seven-wicket win. Before his 89 (91 balls, 8 fours), he had averaged 12.60 in five innings here. The Sharma-Kohli partnership of 137 runs ensured India didn’t feel the absence of Shikhar Dhawan, who had left after injuring his left shoulder while fielding and didn’t come out to bat.
WATCH | India beat Australia to win ODI series; Virat Kohli breaks MS Dhoni’s record
Australia got a taste of how devastating Sharma can be in Bengaluru first in 2013, when he hammered his first ODI double century (209). In their 2017 game, his knock was cut short after he was run out for 65.
Probably what suits Sharma’s game here is the smaller ground where his six-hitting ability gets fully rewarded. In the 2013 double, he smashed 16 sixes.
However,, if the India captain and vice-captain were to decide the Man-of-the-Match award, they would probably pick pace ace Mohammad Shami. The spadework for the win was done by the fast bowler who used his two main skills—late seam movement with the new ball and accurate yorkers at the death—to great effect.
It was great to watch Shami in action on Sunday. There was a nip in the air, and he steamed in, the run-up gaining momentum as he hit his delivery stride. It spelt trouble for the Australia batsmen. Adopting his usual attacking approach, Shami took four wickets to peg Australia back by at least 30 runs in the end.
Jasprit Bumrah proved the ideal foil for Shami. He was economical as ever, conceding 38 runs in 10 overs. Though Smith produced another fighting century, the two bowlers never let Australia break free.
Kohli also used his two spinners well. His game plan to bowl out Jadeja early paid off with the bowler taking two wickets (10-1-44-2). Kuldeep Yadav broke the 58-run fifth-wicket partnership between Smith and Alex Carey (35 off 36 balls) by getting the latter when Australia were trying to shift gear in the last 10 overs.
The momentum of the match heavily depended on openers David Warner and skipper Aaron Finch. Shami picked Warner in the fourth over. He produced a near-perfect ball that pitched on length and moved away a shade to induce an edge, which was taken behind the stumps to make it 18 for one.
When Kohli brought him back at the death, Shami proved his quality again. At the start of the last five overs, Smith was on hundred and Australia on 245/6. The pressure was on the India bowlers. Smith took 16 and 12 runs off the 46th and 47th overs bowled by Navdeep Saini and Bumrah. Shami brought things under control the first ball of the 47th over by inducing Smith to hit to Shreyas Iyer at deep midwicket and then yorked Pat Cummins for duck. In the final over, he conceded just five runs, adding Adam Zampa’s wicket, restricting Australia to 41 runs in the last five overs.
India’s leading ODI wicket-taker in 2019 with 42 wickets in 21 matches took his 10th four-wicket haul on Sunday. Starting from January 2019, he is the second highest wicket-taker in the death overs, with 19 scalps. The only negative point in India’s bowling was the number of extras they conceded—27, including 13 wides. Only three Australia batsmen scored more than the extras.
Australia’s innings was again held together by Smith, who made amends for his role in Finch’s run out. Finch, looking in good touch was stranded after Smith turned his back at the striker’s end instead of completing an easy single to backward point. Smith, however, quickly gathered himself. Kohli tried to target Smith with short balls, with a leg slip in place for Shami, but Smith moved inside the line and attacked it. India shelved the plan after Smith took two fours off Shami’s short balls.
Marnus Labuschagne backed Smith, registering his maiden ODI half-century (54 runs, 64 balls). They took the score to 173, and until Jadeja got Labuschagne, the two made for a fascinating study due to their entirely different techniques. Smith gathered runs in his unorthodox style while Labuschagne was all copy book. Both have an insatiable hunger for runs, but needed to find an extra gear for Australia to compete with a team with better power-hitters.