One difference in MCG’s third ODI, compared to the previous two at Perth and Brisbane, was about the smaller margin of India’s defeat. If 309 and 308 in first two ODIs were not enough, India began with a handicap of scoring even less at Melbourne. After winning the toss, Steven Smith had no hesitation in chasing and therefore he asked India to bat first. Taken in isolation, 295 is usually regarded as a challenging first innings total in ODIs but considering that the Australians have been merrily chasing 300-plus scores and India’s bowlers are not so accomplished, there was hardly any hope for India. However at MCG, it was the turn of Virat Kohli to be disappointed as his fine knock of 117 could not bring victory for India. This could be either regarded as a difference or a similarity depending on how one looks at it. For a short time, optimism for an Indian win surfaced, but Glenn Maxwell had other ideas. When Australia lost Matthew Wade as the sixth wicket in the 39th over, they still needed 81 runs from the remaining 11.5 overs. But Maxwell was still there and he thrashed India’s bowlers to win the match and the series for Australia. The stark reality about India’s performance is their bowler’s inability to contain the opposition. There is no bowler, who can cause consistent threat to any batsman, not just to the Australians; but to others elsewhere in the world as well.
India batted first for the third consecutive time in the 5-match ODI series. They could have probably chosen to chase after India’s loss in both Perth and Brisbane, where MS Dhoni had won the toss and elected to bat first. But this time, it was Smith, who got lucky with the coin toss and promptly sent India in. India’s century maker in first two ODIs, Rohit Sharma failed at MCG but luckily for India, Shikhar Dhawan struck form. After losing Rohit at 15 in 5th over, Dhawan and Kohli carried the score to 134 in the 27th. Dhawan attempted a lofted shot over square-leg off John Hastings but he was bowled through the gate. Kohli was still there but he spent most of his time in innings building and rotating the strike. With Ajinkya Rahane, Kohli engineered another 100-plus partnership but Rahane fell in 45th over in trying to clear a long MCG boundary. The catch was a brilliant tag-team work as Smith covered a big distance at long-on and sensing that he would over-run, he had an instant presence of mind to hurl the ball back. While Smith went over the boundary, Glenn Maxwell, who had also been running behind from deep midwicket, collected the catch. It was a bit like football’s equivalent of providing an assist. Like at the Gabba, India slowed down in death-overs and ended with a total of 295/6. In the last 5.4 overs, India lost four wickets and added just 52 runs, which could have been even less if MS Dhoni had not scored a quick-fire 23 off 9 balls. Kohli scored his 24th ODI century and completed the fastest 7000 runs in ODIs.
Australia’s response to the 296-run chase for victory was as familiar as it had been at Perth and Brisbane. Shaun Marsh and Aaron Finch added 48 for the first wicket in good time and when Finch got out in the 8th over, skipper Smith came in to add 41 before he fell as the second wicket at 112 in the 19th over. George Bailey replaced Smith and added another 23 off 21 balls before being stumped by Dhoni off Ravindra Jadeja. Even when Shaun Marsh fell as the fourth Australian wicket at 167 in the 30th over, Australia still looked on course. However, when Mitchell Marsh was run out by a brilliant throw from Umesh Yadav, they had some temporary trouble at 204/5 in the 36th over. It was here that Glenn Maxwell took the control. India missed R Ashwin as the bowler was left out in preference to debutant Gurkeerat Singh. Maxwell was nonchalant as he thrashed India’s bowlers with disdain. When he got out for an 83-ball 96, scores were level at 295. The winning run came from Faulkner as Australia completed their third successive victory chase and sealed the win in the 5-match ODI series with a 3-0 lead.
As India go to Canberra and Sydney for the fourth and fifth ODI games, they will only look for consolation victories after the series loss. It is clear that India don’t have the right kind of bowling attack. Or else, what can be the reason for India’s loss after posting good totals at WACA, Gabba and MCG? There have been some other occasions in the past, when India lost after posting 300-plus. Then also the poor quality of India’s bowling attack was the reason. Since bowlers cannot be produced overnight, all India can do at this juncture, is to score another 30-plus runs to give themselves a better chance or take to chasing the targets.