Tapabrata Banerjee takes a look back at the 2016 Tour of Australia….
India spent a good amount of time in Australia in 2015. They started the year playing the New Year test in Sydney followed by a triangular ODI series with Australia and England. In Feb-March there was that small issue of ICC World Cup, and they were again back to Australia in early 2016 to play a 5-match ODI series and 3-match T20 series. It was time of transition for India team in limited over games. Although India had a strong showing in the World Cup before losing out to Australia in the Semi final the general results showed some gaps in the ODI and T20 outfit.
They did not qualify for the final of the triangular series before World Cup. Post World cup they were beaten first time by Bangladesh in an ODI series, lost one T20 against Zimbabwe, lost another ODI and T20 series against South Africa in home. The main areas of concern were coming out as the death bowling and lack of good finisher in the middle. Players like Gurkirat Singh Mann and Rishi Dhawan were tested and failed in the ODI series preceding the T20 matches which India lost 4-1.
As a result the selectors called up some old and new faces before the T20 series. Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra were recalled and the youngsters like Hardik Pandya and Jashpreet Bumrah were also included based on their good performances in IPL.
In the first T20 match in Adelaide India were asked to bat first after losing the toss. India team had six changes from last ODI as Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ashish Nehra and Ravichandran Ashwin made their comeback and both the new boys Pandya and Bumrah were given their T20 debuts. Virat Kohli continued his love story with Adelaide Oval and his unbeaten 55-ball 90 was the main fulcrum of the Indian Innings. He was supported by Rohit Sharma at the beginning and Suresh Raina in the later stage of the innings and took India to a respectable 188 in 20 overs. The pitches during the ODI series were really placid and 300’s were chased down regularly hence Australian team must have considered the target achievable.
Australia’s T20 captain Aaron Finch and David Warner provided a good start and they maintained the required rate till the 9th over. But once both the openers and Steve Smith were gone with 100 more runs still required it was difficult for Australia. India’s spin duo Ashwin and Jadeja bowled exceptionally in the middle overs and ended with just 49 runs and 4 wickets in their combined 8 overs which made the difference. Among all this, Hardik Pandya had an interesting entry to the international cricket; he started with 3 leg-side wides and his first over cost 19 runs including 5 wides. However MS Dhoni kept faith on him and he came back to finish with the wickets of Chris Lynn and Matthew Wade. The other Debutant Bumrah had a more impressive showing and finished with 3 wickets including the wicket of David Warner. His unorthodox action was not easy to pick and his yorkers were well bowled. Fittingly Bumrah finished the Australian innings whereas the catch was taken by the other debutant Pandya. India won the match by 37 runs and led the series 1-0 going to the second T20 in Melbourne.
Again putting into bat, India had a great start with both openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan in brilliant touch. Both of them continued to attack and added 97 runs in first 11 overs to put India in a strong position. However post Dhawan’s dismissal Kohli came and batted like he was continuing from his last innings in Adelaide. Finally Sharma’s 60, Kohli’s 59 and MS Dhoni’s cameo of 14 took India to another 180 plus total. Australia made quite a few changes in their bowling line up but still could not stop Indian batsmen from scoring heavily.
While chasing Australia also had a strong start mostly driven by Finch and reached 94 in the 10th over. However Ashwin got rid of other opener Shaun Marsh to give India a sniff. India got two more wickets in the next two overs with only 7 runs added in the board and breaks were put in place in the Australian innings. Finch and Watson tried to rebuild but a sensational caught and bowled from Jadeja sent Watson back to pavilion. Jadeja was again in the thick of action as his throw in the next over found Aaron Finch short of his ground after scoring a wonderful 48-ball 74. Once the big guys were gone it was too much of the Australian lower-middle order and they kept losing wickets to hand India a 21-run win. Bumrah was again impressive in the death overs and finished with a wicket on the last ball of the 20th over. The win gave India an unassailable 2-0 lead in the T20 series. It was India’s first win in any bi-lateral series over Australia in their home.
The series moved to Sydney for the finale with India looking for a 3-0 sweep over Australia for the first time. Australia faced a big blow when Aaron Finch was ruled out due to the hamstring injury he picked during the previous match. The stand-in skipper Shane Watson won the toss and elected to bat this time. Usman Khawaja and Travis Head made debuts for Australia and made valuable contributions. Although the star of the Australian batting was Watson, his innings of 124 of 71 balls with 10 fours and 6 sixes was an incredible exhibition of clean hitting and was a batting master class. None of the Indian bowlers could stop Watson and Australia finished with 197 on the board.
Chasing at 10-runs per over the Indian openers did not sit back and started with an urgency and both Sharma and Dhawan put their hitting mode on from the beginning. Dhawan played a whirlwind cameo to score 26 of just 9 deliveries before getting out. Sharma and Kohli continued their good form and reach their individual half centuries to keep India in hunt. However both were gone by 15th over with another 50 runs needed to reach the target. The responsibility was on India’s two old workhorses, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh. This was Yuvraj’s first innings for India after his struggle to Lasith Malinga during the 2014 World T20 final. Although Raina reached the top gear from the start, Yuvraj struggled to reach 5 of 9 balls and gave Australia a sniff of victory. India required 17 of the last over for the victory with Yuvraj on strike. Yuvraj found his touch and despatched the first two balls of the 20th over for a four and six to put India in a strong position. Raina finished the match with couple of twos and slash over point for four in the last ball to give India their well-deserved 3-0 victory in the T20 series. It was their first whitewash against Australia in Australia in any format of the game and gave birth to the new stars like Jashpreet Bumrah and Hardik Pandya. 3 years down the line both are important members of Indian team in all formats with Bumrah right at the top in the list of fast bowlers along with Kagiso Rabada and Michelle Stark.
Interestingly, all 3 men’s T20 international matches were preceded by a Women’s T20 international on that same ground. Indian eves also exceed all sorts of exceptions to fetch a 3-0 results over Australia. Names like Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur started to take permanent place in Indian fan’s mind. This time, the Women’s team is fighting it out in the Caribbean for Women’s World T20 and already proved their superiority over Australia with a comfortable win on Saturday. Let’s hope, the men’s team can also continue the strong results against Australia.
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