Australia 272 for 9 (Khawaja 100, Handscomb 52, Bhuvneshwar 3-48) v India
DEHLI: India require 273 to beat Australia and claim the ODI series in the deciding game after Usman Khawaja’s century set the platform for the visitors to put up a substantial tally at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi.
Australia’s innings began smoothly through Khawaja, who glided to a second century of the series to further press his case for World Cup inclusion after the bans on David Warner and Steven Smith expire, with useful support from Peter Handscomb, promoted to No. 3 after Shaun Marsh was dropped.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja were the chief wicket-takers for India, while Ashton Turner and Marcus Stoinis will be irritated over failing to convert their starts. Jhye Richardson and Pat Cummins put on a pesky 34 runs off 2.4 overs in the closing stages to ensure the Australians would be happy with their total.
Despite Australia’s record-breaking chase in Mohali, led by Turner, Australia’s captain Aaron Finch chose to bat and attempt to put scoreboard pressure on India, while also making two changes: Stoinis returning from injury at the expense of Marsh, while Nathan Lyon’s spin was recalled in place of Jason Behrendorff.
India also made changes, calling in Jadeja and Mohammed Shami while dropping Yuzvendra Chahal and KL Rahul. Shami and Bhuvneshwar floated the ball full in the early overs in search of swing but slipped obligingly into the driving zones of Khawaja and Finch as the tourists made a fluent start.
Khawaja, in particular, was punishing on balls either too straight or too short, while Finch was for the most part content to bat in his partner’s slipstream. Neither batsman was overly troubled as they rattled to 76, and it took an excellent delivery from Jadeja, spinning past the outside edge of Finch’s bat and clattering off stump, to separate them.
Handscomb was quickly into stride, however, maintaining the momentum from his Mohali innings by finding the boundary while rotating strike expertly with Khawaja, who was soon saluting his second century of the series. It was his third in international cricket since he returned from knee surgery last month with a hundred against Sri Lanka in Canberra.
At 175 for 1 with 17.1 overs left, a major score seemed likely, but when Khawaja picked out Virat Kohli at the cover, causing the Indian captain to hurl the ball into the turf as he released his frustration, the game began to shift in momentum.
The ball was ageing, the pitch slowing, and new entrants to the crease found the going harder. Glenn Maxwell shaped to hit Jadeja inside out but could not clear cover, Handscomb’s innings was ended when he was surprised by extra lift from a Shami delivery he wanted to run down to the third man, and Turner’s follow-up innings to Mohali ended when he miscued a Kuldeep Yadav delivery to long-on soon after he had lifted the left-arm wrist spinner for six.
At the other end Stoinis soaked up 16 dot balls out of 27 faced before dragging Bhuvneshwar onto the stumps, but Jhye Richardson and Pat Cummins were able to pull together a priceless stand for the eighth wicket to push Australia’s total past 270.
From a point where Kohli’s men might have had to beat the previous record chase at the ground – 281 in 1982 – they were ultimately left with a target of more modest dimensions.