Powerful India claim series, 4-1

After breaking India’s 9-match winning streak in the fourth ODI, one would have thought that Australia would come all guns blazing in the final ODI. Before the game, they would have mustered ideas of winning the final ODI and taking the momentum into the T20I series. All that fell flat, when India came back strong and claimed a thumping victory in the fifth ODI. Their bowling and fielding had looked quite weak in the fourth ODI, but they went in with full strength to end the series with a dominating performance.

The Aussies won the toss yet again, and without any doubt, Steven Smith decided to bat on what seemed like a good surface to bat on. Virat Kohli brought Bhuvneshwar Kumar & Jasprit Bumrah back into the line-up. Yuzvendra Chahal was forced to sit out due to sickness, and Kuldeep Yadav took his spot.

Facing the in-form Indian bowlers, the Aussie openers, David Warner & Aaron Finch chose to start the innings watchfully. Jasprit Bumrah got underway with a maiden over, while Bhuvneshwar maintained a tight line and length in his opening few overs. It was in the sixth over that Warner decided to go for some of his shots, and Bumrah conceded 12 runs off the over. His consequent over, the eighth, proved to be even more expensive, as Finch smashed three boundaries off it, and ended the over with 13 runs.

Hardik Pandya got India their first wicket, as Finch tried to force one over cover, but found Jasprit Bumrah, who was a bit clumsy with the attempt, but recovered well on his second attempt to complete the catch. David Warner got to his half century and looked good to accumulate many more runs. Virat Kohli had introduced the partnership-breaker, or the man with the golden arm, Kedar Jadhav, quite early in the innings. The spinners began to tighten the screws around the Aussie batsmen.

Steven Smith perished to Jadhav when he tried to play a risky sweep and got struck flush in front, on his pads. Warner followed pretty soon after playing a rather loose chip towards long on, where Pandey pouched the ball safely. Axar Patel got on a roll thereafter, and claimed another wicket after Warner’s. Peter Handscomb fell cheaply as well after top edging a sweep. Suddenly, Australia were four down.

When it looked like the Aussies would suffer yet another collapse in the series, Marcus Stoinis & Travis Head played mature knocks. They stitched a handy partnership, and picked up the odd boundary while milking the bowlers for ones and twos regularly. The spinners were being handled smartly, and the duo was taking calculative risks whenever possible. Their 87-run stand came to a close when Head was bowled by Axar Patel, who claimed his third scalp of the innings.

Australia’s innings, and their finish went downhill after Head’s wicket. The other set man, Stoinis departed soon after when he was adjudged leg before off Bumrah. He opted for the review, but the umpire’s call prevailed and Australia were in shambles. James Faulkner & Matthew Wade tried their best to slog, heave and hoick the ball around the park, but seldom did they connect cleanly. Barring a six that Wade struck, the partnership seemed more of a struggle than anything else.

Bumrah’s second wicket turned out to be Wade’s, when he holed out on the final ball of the penultimate over. Bhuvneshwar Kumar finished the innings with consecutive wickets off the final two balls of the innings. All Australia could put up on the board was 242/9. Virat Kohli looked happy with his bowlers’ efforts, and there was a stark improvement from the previous ODI, for sure.

When India came out to bat, Ajinkya Rahane got going straightaway, but Rohit Sharma took his time to get used to the pace of the pitch. However, once Rohit got off the mark off his 15th delivery, he hit a couple of sweet boundaries and soon, both the openers were dealing in fours. Rohit Sharma also completed 2000 ODI runs in India, becoming the fastest Indian to reach this landmark by beating Sourav Ganguly’s record of 45 innings.

Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane brought up another 50-plus stand and gave India an ideal start. Boundaries continued to flow off their blades, and India laid a strong foundation once again. The openers converted their partnership into triple figures for the third time in a row. Rohit put his foot on the gas and started to accelerate. He brought up his third consecutive half-century, while Ajinkya Rahane brought up his fourth consecutive fifty.

Rahane got out after his fifty when Nathan Coulter-Nile trapped him in front. The umpire raised his finger and Rahane opted for a review, only to find the umpire’s call stay as it was. Rohit Sharma played some beautiful strokes and was dealing in fours for most parts of his innings. He shared another stunning partnership with Virat Kohli and India were cruising in the chase. Rohit entered the 6000-run club in ODIs and became the 9th Indian to reach that landmark. He went on to score his 14th ODI century as well and India inched closer to another victory.
Rohit tried to finish things quickly, but unfortunately got out to Adam Zampa. The opener hit one to the leg side and Nathan Coulter-Nile caught it at deep mid-wicket. It was a phenomenal knock by Hitman and it was also the first century by an Indian in this series. Virat Kohli tried to end it quickly but even he got out to Zampa. Kedar Jadhav and Manish Pandey completed the proceedings which were a mere formality at this juncture of the game. India romped home with a 7-wicket victory to seal the series 4-1, and reclaim the number 1 spot in the ICC team ODI rankings.

Rohit Sharma was adjudged Man of the Match for his marvellous century. India were ruthless throughout the series and were the deserving winners. Australia should look back at where they went wrong and try to bounce back hard in the T20I series, which starts from 7th October, Saturday. India are now the number one ranked side in the ODIs and are ranked number one in Tests already. They will look to stamp their authority in the shortest format now. It should be an exciting series where both the sides possess some entertaining match-winners who are quite dangerous in this format.

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