For the second time in four days, Rohit Sharma caressed his way to a century against his favourite opposition, statistically, to take India past 300. For the second time in four days, Rohit ended up wearing a forlorn look as Australia chased over 300. For the third time in seven ODIs, Rohit ended up scoring an ODI century in defeat.
At the Gabba on Friday, Australia were driven to a seven-wicket win with an over to spare thanks to fifties from Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh and George Bailey and a pesky 46 from Steven Smith. They lead the five-match-series 2-0, with Sunday’s game in Adelaide a must-win for an Indian side lacking tooth with the ball and today having suffered a severe bout of slippery fingers.
How did it come to this? Two periods stand out. First, when India’s last seven overs produced just 48 runs for the loss of five wickets. Second, when Marsh – getting a chance in ODIs after almost a year due to David Warner’s paternity leave – was dropped four times during the process of putting on a century opening stand with Finch. Seeking a win to keep their series chances healthy, India lost steam at the end of their innings and then had too much catching up to once they eventually dismissed Marsh for 71. Hardly breaking a sweat, Bailey took control once Smith fell in the 41st over and finished the job.
Marsh lived a charmed life, dropped on 19, 25, 57 and 67. Those four catches aside, India weren’t helped by their most experienced fast bowlers. Ishant Sharma, playing his first ODI in nearly a year, bowled a shocking eight wides and dropped the easiest of catches at long-off to give Marsh his first reprieve. Umesh Yadav supplied the openers plenty on the pads, and his bowling the death, while zippy, was wayward.
The first 20 overs were a mixture of defence, scampered singles and some crisp driving and cutting as Australia’s new opening pair got adjusted to batting with each other. Marsh and Finch were fed enough on the legs to pluck off singles and five legbyes further indicate how astray the quicker bowlers were. Marsh chose to go hard when offered width, and it was when he was cutting Ravindra Jadeja that Rahane missed a very hard and fast chance in front of his face at slip. In the 21st over, Finch took off Umesh for easy runs, thumping a four over mid-off’s head and clipping four and six when the bowler veered legside; the second shot was an effortless pick-up six that gave Finch his fifty in 70 balls.
That sparked a period of assault on India’s spinners. Finch twice cut fours off R Ashwin and Jadeja, then stepped out and lofted Ashwin over midwicket; Marsh went back and spanked Jadeja over mid-on. A third chance off Marsh was spilled at deep backward square leg by a diving Barinder Sran, when the left-hander swivelled to pull Umesh.
It took a terrific low catch at long-off from Rahane to get Finch for 71 and snap the partnership at 145, the joint fifth best for Australia against India in ODIs. Manish Pandey dropped Marsh at slip off Umesh, this drop casting four runs before Ishant produced a leading edge to cover. This left Australia wanting a further 143 runs in 20.1 overs, with the previous match’s lead actors at the crease. Smith made a perky 46 from 47 balls before he exposed his stumps and was bowled by Umesh, but Bailey dashed any thoughts of a Gabba thriller with 76 from 58 balls in the company of Glenn Maxwell. Bailey – his average against India now 95.85 – was calculated against the rookie Sran at the death, walloping him for six and four as he sped past fifty in 41 balls. With that assault, India were well and truly out of the contest.
Rahane whistled along with just one boundary in his first 36 balls faced by whipping deliveries off the stumps, punching into the offside and sashaying out to spin. Dropped on 38 when John Hastings could only get fingers on a firm drive, Rahane moved to his fifty in 50 balls but his inability to press on during the final ten overs was startling. Rohit’s unfortunate dismissal, run out when James Faulkner deflected a Rahane drive onto the stumps in his follow-through, was followed by Rahane losing his fluency against a very tidy death-overs performance from Australia’s quicks. Rahane and Dhoni played 22 balls without a four or six as the bowlers targeted a fuller length, and neither Dhoni or Pandey could break free. Faulker’s slower leg cutters did for Rahane and Pandey in the penultimate over before more fell in Hasting’s last over.
Brief scores: Australia 309/3 in 49 overs (George Bailey 76*, Aaron Finch 71, Shaun Marsh 71) beat India 308/8 in 50 overs (Rohit Sharma 124, Ajinkya Rahane 89, Virat Kohli 59) by seven wickets