To successfully achieve a 350-plus target in an ODI match once is incredible. A repetition of that feat within a fortnight, well, messes with our notions of rationality.
The ease of manner surrounding India’s successful chase of 351 to defeat Australia was astounding. It was Jaipur all over again. The series is now level at 2-2, with the final match to be played on November 2 in Bangalore.
While India’s triumph at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium on Wednesday was marked by laudable confidence, the nature of the track would have evoked a few winces. The way bowlers have been flogged on lifeless tracks in this series should create a feeling of unease among the cricketing establishment.
Not to suggest that a successful pursuit of 351 is a mean feat, but a certain level of temperance would be advisable while assessing this awe-inspiring Indian success.
Indeed, the Indian batsmen, and George Bailey and Shane Watson, deserve uninhibited praise for their masterful display.
In terms of severity, Virat Kohli’s assault was the most destructive. Arriving to bat after Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan had established a 178-run foundation for the opening wicket, Kohli stunningly maintained a similar pace throughout his innings.
The 24-year-old reached his half-century in 31 balls, and the hundred came up off 61.
The chase experienced a wobble when Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh were dismissed in the same over by Mitchell Johnson. But the arrival of M.S. Dhoni calmed the nerves, and the remaining 61 runs were polished off without marked difficulty.
Dhawan had earlier scored his fourth ODI hundred to ensure, along with Rohit, that India was never forced to meet a steep asking rate throughout the chase.
The Delhi lad survived a couple of dropped chances when was on 19 and 56, in addition to leaving Clint McKay incredulous before he had even opened his account; Dhawan was adjudged not out on a close lbw shout in the second over.
India’s scoring was restricted only when the Australian bowlers produced length deliveries around off-stump. However, they were inconsistent, much like their Indian counterparts earlier in the day.
When India chose to field and included Amit Mishra to boost its spinning ranks, the decisions seemed guided by the assumption that the VCA pitch would offer more turn than the other tracks in this series. Yet, by conceding 350, India put itself in an unenviable position.
After impressively sticking to good length for the first 20 overs to allow only 83 runs, the home side’s bowlers inexplicably varied their lengths to gift the advantage away.
There were no rewards for bowling fuller or short on this track.
Bailey’s 156 pulverised the home side, as the Australian skipper once again showed why there’s an increasing clamour for his selection in the forthcoming Ashes series.
In his last seven innings before this match, the Tasmanian had scored 85 or more four times. But he had failed to achieve the prized three-figure mark.
On Wednesday, once he reached his hundred, Bailey refused to stop there. The skipper wasn’t dismissed until the final over, leading Australia to a remarkable total.
Shane Watson proved to be an able ally, going from his fifty in 63 balls to a century 30 balls later. Watson was fortunate, though, to be on the pitch for such a long duration.
In the 17th over, with the score at 69, Australia could have lost its third wicket when the all-rounder top-edged an attempted on-side heave to be caught at cover off Ravindra Jadeja.
However, it turned out to be a no-ball, and Watson made most of the reprieve.
The assault from Bailey and Watson forced Dhoni into multiple bowling changes — from the 28th to the 38th over, nobody bowled consecutive overs from the same end — but there was no respite.
Not on this track.