Handscomb, Turner stun India

‘Catches win matches.’

Missed chances, Peter Handscomb’s timely ton and Ashton Turner’s late assault saw the Kangaroos chase 359 with 13 balls to spare in Mohali on Sunday.

Just when India were sailing smoothly with two consecutive wins in the bag, Australia brought out their A-game in Ranchi to get back into contention for the series win. The series, placed at 2-1, was at an interesting junction where both teams had all to play for in the remaining games.

The fourth ODI in Mohali was the perfect Sunday plan for cricket fans, and the match certainly did not disappoint. A gallant effort in chasing down the mammoth target set by India helped Australia keep the series alive. Both the teams put up masterful batting displays, but it was the visitors who managed a win in an enthralling clash.

Virat Kohli won the toss and opted to bat first knowing the pitch would work in favour of the batsmen. It was a typical start from Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, with the latter taking charge as the Hitman took time to settle at the crease. The pair brought up the 50-run stand in the tenth over that featured a wide range of shots from one of the most distinguished opening pairs in the game.

Dhawan looked in good rhythm as the left-hander played an elegant inning, staying ahead of the ball count while Rohit, though, prudent in his batting was adding valuable runs for the hosts. The Aussie bowlers were looking meek as the openers did not only bring up their 15th 100+ run opening stand but also crossed their sixth 150+ run partnership.

The seasoned openers were having such a comfortable time in the middle that they were almost enjoying a contest between them, of who will reach the three-figure mark first. However, in the hurry to get to his 23rd ODI ton, Rohit’s pull shot off Jhye Richardson found Peter Handscomb at deep mid-wicket. Dhawan, on the other hand, celebrated his 16th ODI century in the very next over. His career-best 143-run knock came to an end when Pat Cummins bowled him out in the 38th over.

After the openers departed, India failed to keep up the tempo, barring cameos from Rishabh Pant and Vijay Shankar in the final stages of the innings. However, courtesy of the supreme batting by the Dhawan-Rohit duo, the Australian bowlers finished with expensive figures. Even Pat Cummins, who claimed five wickets, conceded 70 runs in his 10 overs as India posted 358/9 in 50 overs.

The Australian innings did not take off on a positive note. After being among the runs in two games, Aaron Finch’s misery came back in the form of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. India’s ace seamer rattled the Aussie skipper’s stumps in the very first over – making it the third occasion in 2019 where he had got the better of the opener. Jasprit Bumrah, too, was spot on from his first ball. The precision yielded fruit as Shaun Marsh was left looking back at his shattered stumps in the fourth over.

At 12/2, the visitors had severe rebuilding to do. Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb took the rescue operation in their hands. The middle overs panned out well for the visitors as despite the boundaries being infrequent, the two batsmen kept the scoreboard ticking.

By the halfway mark, Australia had done a commendable job of adding 133 runs more without the loss of another wicket. Khawaja and Handscomb had found a way to see off the spin twins – Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. With the desired foundation laid, it was then time for the Aussies to up the ante.

Handscomb picked Kedar Jadhav as the bowler to attack, as two back-to-back sixes indicated that the Australians were changing gears. However, the re-introduction of Bumrah in the bowling attack doused the Australian firepower. The Indian spearhead got the required breakthrough and sent Khawaja packing. After a well-made 91, the Aussie top-edged a Bumrah delivery that demanded a special effort in the outfield by Kuldeep in the 37th over.

Like in India’s innings, while one batsman missed out on a ton, the other went on to successfully enter three figures. Handscomb’s maiden ODI century could not have come at a better time. However, the spinners did eventually come off fine as Kuldeep and Chahal picked the prized wickets of Maxwell and Handscomb respectively to hamper the Aussie run-chase.

However, Ashton Turner who was playing only his second ODI played a hero’s knock for Australia. His quick-fire 84 made all the difference in the game. The Men in Blue could look back and think how differently the game would have unfolded, had they capitalized on the lost chances that gave three lives to Turner.

But the final result read that Australia, powered by impressive performances from Khawaja, Handscomb and Turner, registered their highest successful run-chase against India. The series decider will be played in Delhi on March 13.