Kedar Jadhav prides himself on being a finisher who can contribute a sizable chunk of overs. On Saturday, he played his part in both disciplines, first finishing with 7-0-31-1 with the ball and then shunning his trademark flamboyance for the hard grind early on to arrest a batting slide. His 87-ball 81 formed the bedrock of India’s chase after they slumped to 99 for 4 chasing 237.
Jadhav found an ideal partner in MS Dhoni, with the pair adding 141 for the fifth wicket as India got home with 11 balls to spare to go 1-0 in the five-match series. Dhoni’s calming contribution a 72-ball 59 – his 71st ODI half-century – consisting mainly hard-run singles and seven to the fence, including two back-to-back fours to seal the game.
His only hint of discomfort was off Marcus Stoinis, who can be deceptively quicker. A length ball reared up to get Dhoni’s leading edge that fell short of the bowler in the 32nd over. Off the next ball, Dhoni was lucky again as an instinctive pull to one that got big on him landed one bounce to fine leg. There was one more, where Dhoni jammed his bat down late to squeeze an inswinging yorker.
This minor blip aside, he exhibited sage-like calm in a chase right down his alley, even as Jadhav kept picking the occasional boundaries at the other end, none better than a flat-batted inside-out hit over extra cover off Adam Zampa’s legbreak. With his hamstrings strengthened over months of rehabilitation, Jadhav also ran the quick singles one can expect when Dhoni’s around. Even though the equation came down to a run-a-ball 80, there was no real panic.
As the target kept whittling down, Jadhav brought out the punch in his batting, a short-arm jab one bounce over deep midwicket and a full-blooded whip to beat mid-on off the fasten men providing the thrill. As he passed his half-century, he brought out the ramp shot, as if to stamp his authority over proceedings.
This partnership covered up for a massive blip when they lost Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu for the addition of just 19 in a passage between overs 17 and 23. Kohli was out lbw playing down the wrong line off Zampa for 44, with Australia successfully reviewing. Rohit was out to Nathan Coulter-Nile on 37 after a leading edge was safely pouched by Aaron Finch at mid-off, while Ambati Rayudu stabbed at a sharp Zampa legbreak to be caught behind for 19.
This passage was quite similar to the one in Australia’s innings when they lost successive wickets, not once but twice after key partnerships. First, Usman Khawaja and Marcus Stoinis, promoted to No. 3, added 87 to steady the innings after Finch nicked off third ball to a Jasprit Bumrah brute in the second over. Then, with Australia looking to ignite their innings in the slog, Mohammed Shami sent back debutant Ashton Turner and Glenn Maxwell in a bristling second spell that made for fascinating viewing for his relentless pace and accuracy, much like it was at the start.
Early on, he kept beating Khawaja with fuller-length deliveries to return an impressive opening spell of 4-2-6-0. Then, after being reintroduced in the 36th, he had Turner, who looked comfortable to make a busy 21, with an off-cutter that he chopped on, while Maxwell was beaten for pace by a fullish delivery that cramped him and crashed into the stumps. It needed Coulter-Nile and Alex Carey, returning to the XI after missing the T20Is, to eke out a crucial 62-run stand to lift Australia.
Maxwell’s contribution of 40 could’ve been cut short on 6 had Rohit not been wider at slip after Bumrah produced a genuine edge. Fortunately, this didn’t cost India a few extra runs Australia could’ve well done with on a sticky surface.
That India pulled things back wasn’t just because of Shami alone. Kuldeep Yadav too left his imprint with a typically aggressive spell of top-class wristspin to pick 2 for 46 off 10 overs, the away-drifter and sharp turn to get Peter Handscomb being the standout. Eight of his overs came after Jadhav broke the dangerous second-wicket stand when he had Stoinis smash a long hop to Kohli at midwicket.
In between, Ravindra Jadeja’s choking accuracy that fetched him figures of 10-0-33-0 helped India overcome their fifth-bowler problems, particularly after Vijay Shankar had a poor outing. Coming in first change, he kept bowling short and was punished for 22 in three wicketless overs. However, his outstanding catch at deep midwicket by sprinting nearly 20 metres to his left to dismiss Khawaja after he made a 74-ball half-century triggered a slide, one that may have cost them 25 extra runs that could’ve made a difference.
India 240 for 4 (Jadhav 81*, Dhoni 59*, Kohli 44) beat Australia 236 for 7 (Khawaja 50, Maxwell 40, Carey 36, Kuldeep 2-46, Shami 2-44) by six wickets