N Ananthanarayanan | HT
India had looked to pack a punch and much more in the final one-dayer against Australia at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground on Wednesday, but those plans were punctured as the visitors beat them by 35 runs to seal the series after being 0-2
Virat Kohli’s team had wanted to tick all the boxes in the final one-day game before the World Cup — April 23 is the deadline to submit the team. The full house though left disappointed as India lost their third match in a row as Kohli lost his first home series as skipper with another disjointed performance.
Australia posted a challenging 272 after Aaron Finch won the toss and elected to bat. It proved more than enough on a slow pitch where the dew didn’t arrive and ease India’s task while chasing. India were 237 all out in 50 overs with leg-spinner Adam Zampa claiming 3/46 for a superb series haul of 11 wickets.
Usman Khawaja again produced a brilliant innings, scoring his second century of the series (100 off 106 balls) to set up Australia’s first win in India since 2009, and the first ever in a five-game series after being 0-2 down. His performance also exemplified Australia’s rapid rise ahead of the World Cup.
The 32-year-old left-hander may not have even figured in the series close to the World Cup but for the tumult in Australian cricket that led to bans for Steve Smith and David Warner. He grabbed the chance with both hands, scoring 50, 38, 104, 91 and 100 (aggregate 383 at an average of 76.5).
Khawaja’s placements and playing with soft hands may look a touch out of place in the power game, but his consistency has given Australia great options when they prepare to defend the World Cup, starting on May 30.
He raised 76 runs with Finch and 99 for the second wicket with Peter Handscomb (52 – 60b, 4×4), who hit a century in Mohali. Jasprit Bumrah’s brilliant bowling — he conceded just 14 runs in the first eight overs — helped India rein in the innings, but the spearhead conceded 19 runs in the 48th over as Australia quickly regained the advantage.
India were a batsman short in a side full of World Cup candidates. And none barring Ravindra Jadeja with the ball came good as everything was left to Kohli’s mastery in a chase and once he fell, India crumbled.
It would be demoralising for India after series wins in Australia and New Zealand. The hosts were caught out by the dew factor in Ranchi and Mohali and missed the chance to show their resilience
Australia were 175 for one when Khawaja drove Bhuvneshwar Kumar to Kohli at cover. Bumrah and Jadeja (2/45 in 10 overs) helped peg the score down to 229/7 in 46 overs before Bumrah’s big over meant the target was not longer within grasp.
In 13 series at home since 2013, it is only India’s second defeat, and first since the loss to South Africa in 2015. Kohli has been tested outside off-stump in this series and he nicked a cross-seam delivery from Marcus Stoinis — he passed a fitness test for a thumb fracture — to keeper Alex Carey.
Rohit Sharma struck 53, but all eyes were on the newcomers and two key aspirants didn’t click with the bat. Rishabh Pant (16), promoted to No 4, hit leg-spinner Adam Zampa for six, but edged off-spinner Nathan Lyon to slip soon after. All-rounder Vijay Shankar (16) holed out to wide long-on trying to hit a second straight six.
Zampa has been Australia’s bowling hero, rewarded for his flight and guile. Rohit was dropped by Glenn Maxwell at cover but was stumped off Zampa on the same score.
Once Zampa got Jadeja stumped for a third-ball duck, it was tough for India. Kedar Jadhav (44) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar raised a 91-run seven-wicket partnership, but they were caught off successive balls trying big shots.