In the last third of his 48-ball 63, Virat Kohli hit just one boundary, but it was a critical one – a six over wide long-on off the first ball of Daniel Sams’ last over of the chase with 11 runs needed. A squirted outside edge for four by Hardik Pandya past short third man off the penultimate ball gave India the T20I series 2-1 in Hyderabad, the six-wicket win sealing a fine comeback after Australia had steamrolled them in the Mohali opener.
Nevertheless, heading into their last contest ahead of the T20 World Cup – series against South Africa – some of the old worries persist. In the absence of any significant movement with the new ball, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Co. were again blown away in the Powerplay by the looming presence of Cameron Green, who bashed 52 off just 21 balls.
India did well to claw back from a start of 56 for 1 in four overs. But from a position of 140 for 6 after 17, the 18th and 19th overs from Bhuvneshwar and Jasprit Bumrah cost them a collective 39, as another strapping batsman, Tim David, hauled the Australians to 186 for 7 with a 27-ball 54.
The chase seemed to stall as soon as it had begun, with Australia using the hard lengths to good effect on a ground where banging the ball into the surface makes life hard for batsmen in the Indian Premier League, given a somewhat sticky surface and a substantial outfield. KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma were gone by the fourth over when Suryakumar Yadav walked in and grabbed control of the chase like only he can in this format.
During his 36-ball 69, Yadav pretty much hit the ball where he pleased, except the last delivery he faced, when he failed to clear a jumping wide long-off. There was an outrageous on-the-up punch from outside leg stump off Daniel Sams that sailed into the second tier over extra cover. There was a nonchalant chip-and-flick to Adam Zampa that ended way beyond wide long-on. The glorious Test stars of the Australian firmament, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, were thumped with disdain over deep midwicket, whether on-pace or off-pace.
Kohli alternated between trying to slog the ball out of the ground, something that never came off, and picking his areas and timing the lofted boundaries, which he pulled off with class. As Suryakumar overtook him at searing pace, he sensibly turned the strike over to his partner during their 104-run third-wicket stand that consumed only 62 balls.
However, Suryakumar’s exit at the end of the 14th meant India began to huff and puff, even with only 53 needed off 36, until Pandya walked outside off and helicoptered Hazlewood over a leaping David at long-on off the first ball of the penultimate over. Given Suryakumar’s dominance, they would’ve perhaps liked a cleaner win, but at least batting isn’t their weaker suit at the moment.
Green scorches the turf
From the very first ball of the game, Green came hard at India. He appears to have the tools to become a really difficult batsman to bowl to in T20. When Bhuvneshwar tried to swing one into him, he displayed super-fast hands, especially for such a tall man, hunkering down on the incoming delivery and flaying it over deep square leg.
When Bhuvneshwar predictably went shorter and wider next, he punished him through the covers. He hits off the back foot with power both behind and in front of square, and his massive reach converts even the defensive wider deliveries into sitting-duck boundary options.
Even a bowler like Bhuvneshwar, whose strength is to attack the stumps or operate in the corridor in the Powerplay, was reduced to going farther and farther away from Green’s swinging arc. He even conceded a wide, but the tactic worked eventually as Green sent a steepler soaring off a thick edge to be caught by backward point running back.
Having stopped Green’s charge, India pulled things back nicely, chiefly through Axar Patel, who found some purchase from the strip and got a few deliveries to stop on the batsmen, consuming Josh Inglis and Matthew Wade. He also ran out Glenn Maxwell with a direct hit from the deep.
Bhuvneshwar began promisingly at the death, landing some yorkers on target but David’s reach took over ultimately as he powered sixes down the ground off full deliveries. Australia also played Bumrah well, taking 50 off his four overs. There was none of the slight hesitation that keeps batsmen pegged back against his awkward, heavy deliveries. Rather, they read him accurately, slogging his slower wide ones for boundaries, and Sams even scooping an on-pace full delivery over short fine leg for four. It was down to Harshal Patel to come up with a superb last over to restrict the late damage.