In Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium, Rohit Sharma celebrated Diwali, the Indian festival of fireworks and light in an amazingly power-packed display of explosive batting. Sharma tore the Australian bowling apart, blasting 16 sixes and 12 fours in reaching a personal best of 209, a feat surpassed only by two other Indians; Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. The Australian captain didn’t want Indians to chase this time, so when he won the toss, he opted to take the field. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma began with another fast-paced opening stand and though Kohli got out for a duck and Yuvraj departed early, Sharma found supporters in Raina and Dhoni. In the final stages, Dhoni produced a 38-ball 62 cameo and India finished with a resounding 383 for 6. The Australians began disastrously, losing 4 wickets for 74 runs, including Bailey’s sad run out. But Glenn Maxwell and Shane Watson provided the thrills with brilliant knocks to keep Australian hopes alive. Maxwell scored a 22-ball 60 and Watson, coming at the fall of the 6th wicket, notched up 49 in 22 balls. But once Maxwell and Watson departed, people thought of an easy India win. However, James Faulkner threatened to prove everyone wrong by a blistering 116 scored off 73 balls and added 115 for the 9th wicket with Clint Mckay. At 326 for 8, a miracle still looked likely, as Indian bowlers were thoroughly outclassed by Faulkner. But once Mckay was bowled by Jadeja, the end came quickly. India won by 57 runs to clinch the series 3-2.
Earlier, in the space of fifteen days, Indian batsmen got the better of Australia on two occasions; after being set to chase 350-plus runs. It looked difficult at Jaipur but when the three top order batsmen achieved a near-impossible feat, it was like an effort of a lifetime. That the Indians would repeat their Jaipur performance at Nagpur was like a passage from a book of dreams. In the 40-odd year history of One-Day-Internationals, during which 3428 officially recorded ODI games have already been played, including the Bangalore ODI, there may not be another instance, where a team has won two matches by chasing 350-plus runs in the same series.
Contrary to doubts raised by experts, it was a phenomenal series for Australia and also for India. Except for the only game at Pune on October 13, which India lost miserably by 72 runs, the series was full of runs and big individual scores. Not counting the 295 scored by Australia in the rain-affected Ranchi ODI, the two sides, jointly amassed 3274 runs from just five matches. Other than Ranchi, the fifth game at Cuttack had also to be abandoned. Both teams produced authoritative batting performances. For Australia, Aaron Finch, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Shane Watson and James Faulkner kept plundering the Indian bowling attack, while Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni did the same against the tourists. At Jaipur, in chasing 360, India lost just one wicket and made the win look incredibly easy with 39 balls remaining. Law of averages did not favour a similar performance at Nagpur but Indian openers had other ideas. They batted as if they were starting from where they left off at Jaipur. The target was difficult but once Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan laid a solid 178-run first-wicket foundation, Virat Kohli repeated his Jaipur Performance and fashioned out a 6-wicket win for India.
Though George Bailey was unfortunately run out at Bangalore, he produced a fantastic knock at Nagpur by treating every Indian bowler with utter disdain and kept his series performance consistent. Bailey exploded with his bat to muster 156 off 114 balls, aware that selectors back home were watching him. His mastery with the willow would not have escaped the notice of those who matter. Now the cricket fans around the world will keenly await the announcement of Australian test side for the upcoming Ashes series. In Nagpur, Bailey had great company in Shane Watson, another centurion, who matched his captain. The two of them added 168 for the third wicket. Interestingly, Australians, had only made 89 for 2 in 22 overs but they plundered 261 in the remaining 28. Bailey broke the record for most runs by an Australian in a bi-lateral series. Next to Misbah-ul-Haq, Bailey was also the fastest man to reach 1500 this year.
But man-of-the-match at Nagpur, Virat Kohli, played some truly incredible strokes, sometimes, off balls coming chest high at him. The trio of Kohli, Dhawan and Rohit Shrama refrained from losing their composure and kept hitting the balls in the same way, they did at Jaipur. The task of chasing 350 was always enormous, but these three did not flinch and remained committed.
With the win at Bangalore, Indians have put the stamp of their superiority in ODI games and proved that their 2011 World Cup victory was not a fluke. The last game also saw a record 38 sixes hit, of which Rohit Sharma alone scored 16.
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