This has been a chastening one-day series for India but it has ended with a rather sweet victory at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Manish Pandey kept his head to score a stirring, maiden century in international cricket as India secured a thrilling six-wicket win with two balls to spare in the fifth and final ODI here on Saturday.
The pursuit of 331 boiled down to 13 off the last over, with Pandey and M.S. Dhoni at the crease. Dhoni, who had struggled all evening, finally whacked one out of the middle, launching Mitchell Marsh’s first (legal) delivery over the sight screen.
The Indian captain had earlier been dropped on 7, a score he had laboured to off 21 balls, and Australia had paid for it. Good day or bad, Dhoni still knows what to do with a full toss when he sees one. The Indian captain was out next ball, but the batsmen had crossed and Pandey finished the job off with a pair of boundaries — the first to raise his hundred and the second to lead his bruised side over the line.
The Karnataka batsman remained unbeaten on 104 (81b, 8x4, 1x6), his fielding on the day as impressive as his work with the bat. His heroics came after a fine bowling performance on debut from Jasprit Bumrah, his two for 40 excellent in the context of the game. Australia had a first-time centurion of its own to celebrate in Mitchell Marsh, but the tons he and David Warner scored went in vain.
India made an encouraging start to the run chase, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan hammering Australia’s bowlers without a hiccup. Dhawan’s batting had that easy quality it has when he is in form. Marsh and John Hastings were picked up and lofted several rows over the leg-side boundary, in ominous fashion. It thus felt he had given his wicket away when on 78 he stepped out and attempted to clear the point boundary, where Shaun Marsh took a sensational catch over his head, both feet off the ground.
Virat Kohli followed not long after, edging John Hastings behind. Australia sensed a chance but Rohit and Pandey swiftly shut the door. Rohit seemed set for another hundred, but he was given out caught behind on 99. He seemed unhappy with the decision, but ‘Snicko’ detected a faint edge.
The sceptics may have predicted another collapse here but Pandey, only in his fourth ODI, batted like a veteran. He took no undue risks, instead running hard, fast, and in between playing shots of great quality. Pandey stitched a stand of 97 runs for the third wicket with Rohit, and one of 94 for the fourth with Dhoni. After a number of near misses, there was finally relief for the touring side.
Earlier, having won the toss and elected to field first, Dhoni brought on the debutant Bumrah, replacing the injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar, in the eighth over. The Gujarat bowler has an unusual action, the right arm all stiff and at an odd angle, but he made quite an impact here.
Steve Smith was bothered by him, flashing and missing twice, the bowler perhaps quicker than he imagined. Bumrah tied Smith down, bowling a succession of dot balls, and this pressure did for the batsman. The Australian captain pulled a short delivery from Bumrah and Rohit held a simple catch at short mid-wicket.
Rishi Dhawan, who has not bowled badly this series at all, then got rid of George Bailey, before Australia was reduced to 117 for four when Shaun Marsh was run out. At the other end, though, Warner was batting untroubled. The left-hander was perhaps not his usual explosive self, but Australia consolidated around him. He and Mitchell Marsh joined hands, adding 118 runs for the fifth wicket. Warner eventually fell for 122 (113b), caught at point off a slower delivery from Ishant.
India erred, however, in allowing Marsh to get away. A Western Australian, Marsh has little problem cutting or pulling and India, Umesh Yadav in particular, fed him a number of short deliveries.
Yadav endured a difficult day, going for 82 from his eight overs, bowling the wrong line or length or both. In contrast, Bumrah, playing his first international game, demonstrated good control over his off-cutters, bouncers and yorkers. Bumrah and Ishant, bowling the last two overs, conceded only a total of seven runs. Marsh eventually completed his maiden one-day century in the final over as Australia finished on 330.