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AUSTRALIA did things back to front, but ended up with the same result to go 2-0 down in their one-day series with India.
After blowing a golden opportunity in the opening match, having had India in trouble at 3-11 before watching a blazing recovery spearheaded by Hardik Pandya, the visitors would’ve feared the worst when Virat Kohli led India to a healthy start on Thursday.
But this time Australia nullified the lower order to give themselves a fighting chance: only to fall short again in the chase.
We look at what we learned from Thursday’s rollercoaster ride and look forward to Sunday’s match in Indore – which is now absolutely must-win for Australia to keep the series alive.
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MORE CHANGES ON HORIZON
Australia made two changes for Thursday’s match – dumping Adam Zampa and James Faulkner for Kane Richardson and Ashton Agar.
They were Australia’s two most expensive bowlers, although Richardson chimed in with three late wickets.
Agar failed to finish the match, leaving late in the Indian innings with serious cramp in his lower leg, and may also be under a fitness cloud for the third ODI in Indore, starting Sunday.
But the biggest selection conundrum is at the top of the order.
Hilton Cartwright’s selection raised eyebrows across Australia this past fortnight, and his elevation to the top of the order following Aaron Finch’s injury has not paid dividends after two matches.
Cricket: Nathan Coulter-Nile has taken this cracking catch to earn Australia’s first wicket.
Nath’s juggling act
Cartwright is a fine and technically sound batsman with a stellar domestic record, but he’s returned scores of 1 and 1 from the opening two matches.
And in Kolkata he looked a man out of his depth while scratching around in search of runs.
By the time he finally had his stumps rattled by the hugely impressive Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Cartwright had soaked up 15 deliveries and never looked comfortable.
The experiment of using him at the top of the order doesn’t appear to be working, and selectors will surely be looking at alternatives ahead of the must-win third match on Sunday.
Travis Head, who came to the crease early after the twin failures of Australia’s openers and looked in good touch in scoring 39 in quick time, has opened for Australia before and would be a steady option.
That, of course, leaves a gap at No.4 – but one which could potentially be filled by Peter Handscomb, who joined the tour as Finch’s injury replacement. Australia could also opt to promote Marcus Stoinis. The all-rounder scored an unbeaten 62 off 65 in Kolkata, in an innings punctuated by three sixes and six fours but built on a patient start.
Michael Clarke speculated – somewhat jokingly – that Finch himself could’ve proved his fitness on Thursday.
The veteran opener was running drinks and ice packs to his teammates every other over during India’s innings – sprinting out into the middle on each occasion.
Is that a satisfactory fitness test on an injured calf? One thing is sure, Australia could use a player of Finch’s class and experience at the top of the order.
SPIN KINGS DO IT AGAIN
What is it with Indian spin duos tearing Australia to shreds?
In March, it was Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja who tormented Australia to the tune of 46 wickets.
Through two matches, it has been spin to win again – with leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav both producing extraordinary displays to bamboozle the Australians.
Chahal was a wizard, finishing with the exceptional figures of 2-34 from his overs – which are almost unflattering, considering he copped some punishment from Stoinis in his final over.
No Australian batsman looked comfortable against him, even if his dismissal of Travis Head came off a rank full toss that deserved to be dispatched into the crowd rather than to the safe hands of Manish Pandey at midwicket.
It was going to take something special for Kuldeep to steal the spotlight. And he delivered that something special.
Kuldeep copped some early punishment from Glenn Maxwell, who swept him for consecutive sixes, but bounced back in a big way – becoming just the third Indian bowler to register an ODI hat-trick.
Matthew Wade was perhaps unlucky, dragging a wide delivery back onto his stumps, before Ashton Agar played all around a fuller delivery that would’ve cleaned up middle and off.
But the wrong’un that Pat Cummins faced first up, pitching outside leg before ripping across the face of Cummins’ bat, taking the edge and being well caught by MS Dhoni, was a thing of beauty.
It’s the first Indian ODI hat-trick since Kapil Dev in 1991 – some three years before Kuldeep was even born.
Kuldeep, who made his Test debut against Australia in Dharamsala, looks to be made of the right stuff. And he’ll forever have his place in the record books.
KING KOHLI HAS RETURNED
It’s fair to say, Virat is back.
Not that he was struggling, per se. He was still scoring runs for fun against anyone he faced – except Australia.
In his previous seven matches against Australia – across all formats – Kohli had failed to pass 20, having struggled in the Test series in March and then rolled for a duck in the opening ODI.
On Thursday, he again looked scratchy early – nicking wide of the slips to get off the mark and creeping to seven runs from his first 20 balls.
But the Indian skipper persevered and fought through the difficult period until he started seeing them like beach balls.
Cricket: Virat Kohli has stolen a cheeky run from an injured Matt Wade and it has left the Aussies fuming.
Kohli leaves Aussies fuming
And then he toyed with Australia’s bowlers, repeatedly slapping Kane Richardson through the covers with exquisite timing and hooking modest slower balls with disdain.
While the heat sapped Australia of their energy, Kohli was sapping their spirit as he marched to what appeared to be an inevitable 31st ODI hundred– which would lift him above Australian great Ricky Ponting to second on the ODI century charts.
Then he had a moment of weakness, after several hours at the crease, and a lapse in concentration led to him chopping on, giving Nathan Coulter-Nile a third wicket.
He departed for 92, when a century would’ve been richly deserved.
CONFUSION REIGNS OVER RULES
Proving that cricket is a truly bizarre game, there was one scenario late in India’s innings that left cricket fans across the planet scratching their heads.
As Richardson charged in to send down the third ball of the 48th over, the heavens opened.
But rather than stop play, Richardson was allowed to continue his delivery – and that’s when things got weird.
The South Australian quick bowled a waist-high full toss – possibly with the ball slipping out of his hand due to the rain that had started falling – to India’s lower-order star Pandya.
Pandya swung hard but managed only to sky a chance to Steve Smith on the offside, which the Australian captain snapped up.
But aware of the likelihood of a no ball being called, Smith then attempted a run-out – throwing the ball to Richardson, who whipped the bails off with Pandya nowhere to be seen.
The youngster was in fact halfway down the wicket and walking back to the dressing room, presuming he’d been given out caught.
But with rain falling, everyone ran then followed suit: players and umpires quickly running for drier ground.
And this is where things got truly weird.
Smith continued to question the umpires about the decision, and whether the run-out counted or not.
The umpires, digging deep into the rule book, cited Law 27 which says if a batsman is walking under a misapprehension that he’s out, the umpires will signal dead ball and no further action can be taken.
And that was that: Pandya survived and thousands of fans learned a new rule.
AUSSIE HEROICS IN HEAT
One thing we have learned in the past month is that there’s a difference between the heat you get in Australia and the heat you get in the subcontinent.
Just ask Peter Handscomb and Matthew Wade.
Both are tough as nails and as used to the hot, hot sun that bakes all beneath it throughout the Australian summer.
But both have felt the dizzying impact of 80 per cent humidity and stinking hot subcontinental days in recent weeks.
But just as with Handscomb – who bravely battled on in Chittagong despite his body’s strong objections to register a gutsy 82 – Wade fought off the effects of the heat to make his captain and country proud.
The wicketkeeper – as tough as they come – lasted little more than 12 overs before he succumbed on Thursday, falling to his knees midway through Kane Richardson’s third over.
Wade was down with cramp and more. He looked white as a ghost and was drenched in sweat.
Out came ice packs, wet towels, endless bottles of water and a sympathetic ear from the Aussie support staff – it was to become a feature of the innings.
And so Wade – and the likes of Richardson, Pat Cummins and Hilton Cartwright, who were also clearly affected – soldiered on.
He grimaced every time he was called on to bend down to reach a ball which hadn’t sailed through at a regulation height.
And then he took one of the finest catches of his career.
A diving effort low and to his left to dismiss Kuldeep Yadav off the pace of Pat Cummins, which lifted his teammates and calmed his critics for at least another week.
Originally published as The rookie gamble costing Australia
Source: sports dailytelegraph