India Fall Short in Decider, Concede ODI Series 3-2 to Australia
India’s final preparation for the World Cup, on the international stage at least, has ended in a disappointing series defeat at home to Australia.
The hosts slumped to their first ODI series defeat at home since October 2015 – a run of six successive series wins before this – after hurtling to a 35-run defeat in the series-deciding fifth ODI at New Delhi on Wednesday, 13 March.
Unwanted First for India
India’s quest to find the right combinations for the ICC World Cup 2019 eventually cost them the contest, allowing Australia to become only the fourth team to overturn a 2-0 deficit to win a five-match ODI series.
In what was their last game before the showpiece event in the United Kingdom, the Indian innings folded up for 237, in exactly 50 overs, chasing a 273-run target. Australia’s score of 272/9 after opting to bat was built around Usman Khawaja’s (100) second hundred in three games.
‘Most Balanced’ Combination?
India dropped KL Rahul and Yuzvendra Chahal from their playing XI, drafting in Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami instead in a bid to play five specialist bowlers – a combination that skipper Virat Kohli reckoned was India’s “most balanced” as he dropped a hint towards the team’s line of thought looking ahead to the World Cup.
However, India’s challenging run-chase on a tricky Ferozeshah Kotla wicket was strangled by Australia’s determined middle overs bowling.
Australia, having looked out of sorts and trailed 2-0 just a week ago, were able to complete a remarkable comeback and grab their first ODI series win in India since 2009.
India Choked by Spin
The Australian spin trio of Adam Zampa (3/46), Nathan Lyon (1/34) and part-timer Glenn Maxwell (0/34) kept the Indian batsmen on a tight leash.
Only Rohit Sharma (56) could score a half-century, which included two reprieves.
India could not make a flying start, losing last match's centurion Shikhar Dhawan (12) early and managed just 43 runs in the 10 Powerplay overs.
Rohit was again slow off the blocks, hardly rotating the strike but found some elegant boundaries off the pacers.
The assuring presence of skipper Virat Kohli (20) did not last long as he too departed early, caught behind while attempting a cut off Marcus Stoinis. He added 53 runs for the second wicket with Rohit.
He smashed leg-spinner Zampa for a six but was undone by Lyon, who had the left-hander caught at first slip.
Rotating the strike was key on this Kotla wicket but the Australian spinners kept the pressure on India with dot balls.
The extravagance cost both Pant and Vijay Shankar (16) their wickets as they went after Lyon and Zampa respectively.
India appeared well out of the contest at 132/6 inside 30 overs, but Kedar Jadhav (44) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (46) brought some respectability to the margin of defeat with a 91-run stand off 103 balls.
Khawaja Bosses, Again
Earlier, opener Usman Khawaja, who had not scored a century before arriving to India for this series, hit an exact 100 off 106 balls as he shared two big partnerships at the top of the order to set platform for the visiting side.
The left-handed top-order batsman, looked at as a Test specialist by some, finished as the top run-getter in the series – and deservedly took home the Player of the Series award.
Australia were placed comfortably at 175 for one and set for a kill in slog overs, but India came back when Bhuvneshwar got rid off Khawaja in the last ball of the 33rd over.
The visitors added only 97 runs in last 17 overs for the loss of seven wickets.
The left-handed Khawaja first raised a 76-run stand with Aaron Finch (27) after his skipper elected to bat in hazy and overcast conditions and followed it up with a 99-run partnership with Peter Handscomb (52).
Khawaja was yet again impressive with his footwork, handling the Indian spinners nicely before being caught at shot extra cover by Kohli off Bhuvneshwar. The left-hander hit 10 fours and two sixes before driving straight to Kohli.
Jadeja then got rid of Glenn Maxwell (1) and Shami sent back Handscomb as Australia lost three wickets in the space of 14 balls.
Jadeja, who replaced Yuzvendra Chahal, made a strong case for himself for inclusion in the World Cup squad with figures of 10-0-45-2.
Jasprit Bumrah was exceptional in his first eight overs giving just 14 runs but Jhye Richradson (29) spoilt his figures by creaming off four boundaries from his ninth over, providing one last push to Australian innings.
It turned out to be a forgettable day for chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav who bled 74 runs in his 10 overs while dismissing the dangerous Ashton Turner (20) cheaply.