India's One-Day International series with Australia has matched imperious batting with inglorious bowling, and that remained the case as even Mahendra Singh Dhoni couldn't bludgeon his side to victory in Mohali.
India were put into bat and Dhoni came to the crease with the home side reeling at 76-4. Australia also looked to have the measure of the Indian batsmen. Mitchell Johnson had pummelled them with short-pitched deliveries, resulting in the wickets of Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh as they both struggled to come to terms with his pace.
Across the two previous matches, Australia had found India's top order wanting with some aggressive bowling. Although Indian wickets aren't renowned for great pace and bounce, Johnson and Clint McKay have worked them over well, raising doubts about their technique.
They did so again here, taking wickets and never letting the batters settle.
For his part, Johnson looked like a genuine Ashes candidate, bowling with both accuracy and hostility. He ended with 4-46 from his 10 overs, but he could do nothing about Dhoni.
The Indian captain started slowly, and actually looked to be injured after pulling up sharply at the end of a quick first run. Australia could sense a cheap total, but Dhoni was determined to rebuild the innings.
In a good partnership with Virat Kohli, Dhoni marshalled India back into the game. Kohli was dismissed for 68 and it was then left to the captain to go it alone.
After hitting just one boundary from his opening 67 balls, Dhoni picked up the pace to smash a total of 12 fours and five sixes in an innings of 139 not out. There was the usual flurry of bottom-hand power hitting the helicopter shot and ungainly slogs to cow corner as his opponents had no answer to his skills.
What held the latter part of his innings together was his determination to hang far back in his crease, reducing yorkers to half-volleys with minimal footwork and tremendous hand-eye coordination. Well, that and the fact that he was dropped by George Bailey off of the first ball of the penultimate over.
Just for reference, those final two overs went for 36.
|India Innings (50 overs max.)|
|RG Sharma||c Finch b Watson||11||22||2||0|
|S Dhawan||c Haddin b McKay||8||6||2||0|
|V Kohli||c Haddin b Maxwell||68||73||9||0|
|SK Raina||c Watson b Johnson||17||19||2||0|
|Yuvraj Singh||c †Haddin b Johnson||0||1||0||0|
|MS Dhoni*†||not out||139||121||12||5|
|RA Jadeja||c †Haddin b Johnson||2||4||0||0|
|R Ashwin||c †Haddin b Johnson||28||35||3||0|
|B Kumar||c Bailey b Faulkner||10||18||1||0|
|R Vinay Kumar||run out (Maxwell/Faulkner)||0||1||0||0|
|I Sharma||not out||0||0||0||0|
|Extras||(lb 13, w 7)||20|
|Total||(9 wickets, 50 overs)||303|
Australia took the crease and immediately looked completely unaware of how to attack India's strong total. Dhoni's innings seemed to deflate them, and they were apparently content to push Ravindra Jadeja back up the wicket for a series of dot balls.
When George Bailey departed, Australia were 171-4 and the walls looked to be closing in. They were also the victim of poor umpiring, losing Aaron Finch and Shane Watson to questionable decisions.
Once again, however, the lack of a decent decent death bowler returned to sink India.
Ishant Sharma should be spearheading the Indian attack right now, but he might find himself out of the side entirely. He looks devoid of inspiration when running up to bowl, and Dhoni's decision to give him the ball at the start of the 48th had to be motivated by necessity rather than confidence.
At that point, Australia needed 44 from 18 balls and were still outsiders to win the game. James Faulkner was at the wicket, and on 24, he looked to be manoeuvring himself into a position where he could get after the bowler.
Against Ishant, he did exactly that, striking 30 from the over and launching the ball into the crowd on four separate occasions. He finished with 64 from 29 balls—including six sixes—and single-handedly pulled Australia into a position where they could win the game.
That's not to discount the support he received from Adam Voges, who quietly went to 76 not out and held down the other end while Faulkner lit the fireworks.
Australia have now scored over 300 in every innings so far and move into a 2-1 lead in this seven-match series. They may have left it late on this occasion, but there's no denying the character of the Australian side. They had a plan and executed it perfectly.
This is shaping up to be one of the most exciting ODI series of all time.
|Australia Innings (50 overs max.)|
|PJ Hughes||c Dhoni b Vinay Kumar||22||40||4||0|
|AJ Finch||lbw b I Sharma||38||44||6||0|
|SR Watson||lbw b Jadeja||11||17||1||0|
|GJ Bailey||lbw b Vinay Kumar||43||60||4||1|
|AC Voges||not out||76||88||7||0|
|GJ Maxwell||run out (Dhawan)||3||3||0||0|
|BJ Haddin||c Jadeja b Kumar||24||16||2||1|
|JP Faulkner||not out||64||29||2||6|
|Extras||(lb 14, w 9)||23|
|Total||(6 wickets; 49.3 overs)||304|