The inability to translate a strong position into a victory at Jaipur had stalked Australia. Adam Voges and James Faulkner helped Australia exorcise that ghost here after having allowed the host to recover from a shaky stage at the PCA Stadium here on Saturday.
The four-wicket win gave Australia a 2-1 lead, but more importantly drove home the point that there was a collective surge in its methods.
This evening, it was Voges who took over the mantle and played the facilitator to perfection before Faulkner swung the game with a 30-run plunder of Ishant Sharma’s eighth over, 48th of the innings. Faulkner hit four sixes as India plunged to defeat from a healthy position.
It boiled down to nine off the final over.
R. Vinay Kumar failed to prevent Faulkner, who picked a full toss for the wining hit into the stands over square-leg. It was a night of despair for Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who hit his ninth ODI century.
Australia’s chase was sedate in the beginning but picked up pace through Voges’s resolute knock. Aaron Finch and Shane Watson may consider themselves unlucky to have earned leg-before verdicts but stayed on course to scale the target of 304.
Voges produced a delightfully controlled innings, after George Bailey had shown the way, in the company of a scintillating Faulkner, who waded into the attack with an innings of rare excellence. Voges lost partners but not hope. It was a clinical show built on a strong belief that drew inspiration from Bailey’s cameo.
Early setbacks meant India could breathe easy but Australia clawed its way back with Voges eying the target like a thorough professional, picking his bowlers to score off, just as Dhoni had done in the first part of the match.
There was bounce. And there was hopping. Comical at times as the pitch tested the technique and resilience of India’s batting line-up. Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja were deeply embarrassed by their dismissals, caught in awkward poses, unable to tackle the rising ball.
Mitchell Johnson, quick to realise the surface was to his liking, stuck to a predictable line and length, digging the ball short or exploring the yorker. The Indian top order was sliced off by the Aussies in impressive style. And then Dhoni pummelled the Aussies in a wonderful display of controlled aggression. There was nothing the Australians, electing to field, could do after having reduced India to 76 for four as Dhoni stepped in to take charge in his inimitable style.
Kohli had looked in sublime touch, picking the gaps, and runs, at will. Just as Dhoni was to do later in the evening, Kohli’s batting was magical at times, caressing the ball square of the wicket, or driving it with a silken touch that only reconfirmed his ability to pick the ball early. Dhoni picked it late, swinging it, at times ungainly in its look but most profitable in terms of runs.
Australia let go the advantage that the fast bowlers had earned with some incisive spells. Shikhar Dhawan got a ball that left him late, squaring him up, and Rohit was poorly positioned to play the intended pull. Raina struggled and finally succumbed to a short ball. Yuvraj Singh played astonishingly away from the body and presented a sorry sight when he edged the ball. And then Kohli and Dhoni resurrected the innings.
Kohli departed when he looked worth more. A casual nudge against the turn caused his downfall, but Dhoni raised his game to set the innings on a sound course. Not all shots that Dhoni played would have pleased the connoisseur but they did delight the audience and the Indian dressing room.
Dhoni, the first Indian batsman to score a century in an ODI at this venue, was at his best in the latter half of the innings, having bided his time, leading by example. The Aussies were helpless as Dhoni smashed even good deliveries with brute power, giving the shots direction with last-moment tilts.
When Dhoni batted the pitch looked least menacing. It looked most amiable when Voges and Faulkner blasted the Indians out of shape.