No century, no five-wicket haul, yet India posted a huge total first and then defended it with relative ease. Resting the ghosts of his home Test summer this season, Steve Smith stood firm, giving his side hope of an unassailable lead in the series. However, Kuldeep Yadav sucked the life out of the game by picking two wickets in an over – including that of Smith – becoming the fastest Indian spinner to reach 100 ODI wickets in the process.
Mohammed Shami and Navdeep Saini yorked the Australian lower order, picking two wickets apiece in the last ten overs of the innings. Jasprit Bumrah, bowling with an economy of 3.5 in a 340-run match, picked his first ODI wicket since his return to bring down the curtains on the Australian innings.
The efforts of KL Rahul behind the wickets went unnoticed, highlighting the ease with which he blended into the keeper’s role in Rishabh Pant’s absence. As Harsha Bhogle rightly put it at the end of the match –“If your name is Rahul and you are from Karnataka, you are expected to keep for India at some point in time”
Unsurprisingly, Rahul ended up with the player of the match award for his brisk fifty that provided the impetus to India’s innings.
Shedding the hangover from the first ODI, the Indian bowlers, especially Bumrah, started on target. Exploiting Aaron Finch’s weakness to incoming deliveries, Bumrah bowled back to back maiden overs.
Not able to replicate Bumrah’s discipline, Shami struggled with getting his coordinates right, ending the match with an economy of 7.7. Picked for boundaries in every over, Australia attacked Shami early on to keep the tempo going.
An other-worldly bit of athleticism helped India get their first wicket of the series. Jumping in the air, Manish Pandey at cover, plucked a firmly hit drive by David Warner out of thin air with his right-hand.
Saini, brought in first change, got the speed gun clocking around 143kmph straight away. Inspired by Neil Wagner’s success against Smith, India bowled their first 15 or so deliveries to him either back-of-a-length or short. All of these had him ducking or playing uncomfortably.
In the last over of the powerplay, Smith got his revenge by hitting Saini for three boundaries, two off full balls, one to a length ball whipped expertly to the square-leg fence.
Ravindra Jadeja provided India with their second break-through after Finch missed a sweep and was given out stumped in a marginal decision.
There were no telling signs of this being the maiden ODI innings for Marnus Labuschagne. Playing with a straight bat and exhibiting complete control, he put on 96 runs with Smith for the third wicket.
Facing Bumrah for the first time, Labuschagne stamped his authority through an immaculately hit straight drive. Attacking spinners intermittently, he hit three glorious boundaries as well. He fell four short of a half-century after he lofted an innocuous delivery from Jadeja to long-off.
Before falling agonisingly short of his century, Smith expertly milked Kuldeep and Jadeja for singles in the middle-overs while using his supple wrists to hit the odd boundary on the leg side to keep the run-rate check.
After a comeback seemed a distant dream after the crushing in the first ODI, some fearless batting helped India put the pressure back on the Aussies. Another high scoring venue awaits the teams as a thrilling series finale is well set up.
It is wonderful what an uncluttered mind backed by the gift of abilities can achieve. With no room for any sort of indecisiveness in approach to creep in, Rahul, in his 27th ODI innings, finished with a strike-rate of over a 100 (153.84) in an innings of over fifty (80) for the first time.
Jewelled with some gorgeous shots, Rahul blunted the Mitchell Starc threat in the death overs, thrashing him for 26 runs of the 13 balls he faced off him. The pick of the shots being a six over extra cover. Hitting six fours and three sixes in his innings, Rahul demonstrated his shot-making abilities against all the Aussie bowlers. With some help from Virat Kohli in the initial overs, Rahul helped India add 99 runs in the last 10 overs, pushing the total to a healthy 340/6
Unlike the first ODI, the Indian batsmen had a clear approach to dominate the spinners in the middle overs. The tactic faced an initial hiccup when Rohit Sharma, just after slog-sweeping a ball for four, lost his balance while attempting another sweep off Adam Zampa. India lost their review as the ball’s trajectory was taking it to the middle of middle stump.
Kohli, in next, maintained the intensity in his usual restless manner. Switched on against Zampa, the Indian skipper avoided any adventurous strokes off the leg-spinner but kept milking him for singles and twos. The batsman with the highest non-boundary strike-rate (67) in ODIs since 2016, Kohli played only two dot balls against the leggie.
Shikhar Dhawan struggled against Ashton Agar initially but found his rhythm after reaching his half-century. Hitting three fours and a six in two overs, Dhawan even deployed a reverse sweep against him.
Just after the pair completed a hundred partnership between them, Dhawan, attempting a pull to a half-tracker by Kane Richardson, struck it straight to long leg, falling four short of another ODI century.
Still finding his way against quality bowling, Shreyas Iyer, promoted to four, struggled to rotate the strike. In an attempt to up the ante, he attempted an ugly hoick against Zampa, getting bowled in the process.
While Zampa was among the wickets again, India dominated Starc. The wicket-taking machine did not taste success today and went for over seven runs per over.
Put in to bat once more by Finch, the balance was restored when Rohit and Dhawan got going. In a clear change of mindset after the first ODI debacle, the pair added 55 runs in the first 10 overs.
Starting cautiously, Rohit played out a maiden against Pat Cummins up front. Immaculate as ever with his lines, Cummins started with deliveries moving away a fraction and still ending on Rohit’s off-stump, squaring him up a few times.
The wind for the rest nine overs flew in only one direction. Dhawan started with a gentle touch off Starc’s first ball of the game. Exampling the quick outfield in this heaven of a ground for batsmen, the ball kissed the boundary ropes in a blink.
Struggling to cope with the left-arm combination the Aussie opening bowlers strayed on both sides of the wicket and were feasted on by the pair.
Rohit was offered a chance in what might be considered an opportunity by Smith’s standard. Starc angled a back of a length ball away from Rohit who tried to play it past gully. Smith flew to his right but the ball refused to stick to his right palm.
Richardson’s introduction hastened the run flow further. Dishing out his variations – cross seamers and slower ones – Richardson offered one boundary ball in the majority of his overs.