Top-order success down to experience - Dhoni
India somewhat made amends for the botched Canberra chase on Saturday at the SCG by becoming the first team to chase down a 300-plus target against Australia in Australia. Along the way, they also halted Australia's record 18-match winning streak at home.
The man who played a monumental role in handing Australia a six-wicket loss was Manish Pandey, who struck an enterprising unbeaten 104 after the stiff chase of 330 was set up courtesy a 123-run opening stand in just 18.2 overs between Shikhar Dhawan (78) and Rohit Sharma (99).
"I got the chance to bat at No.4 because Ajju (Rahane) was injured. Seeing the way the wickets have been behaving, with 300 being scored each game, it's tough to get a chance at No. 6, so I thought I should make use of my chance at four," Pandey said. "It was good to bat with the captain. His encouraging words helped."
MS Dhoni, far from his destructive best in his 42-ball 34, attributed the win to consistency of the top order. "Last time, we spoke about our batsmen being young and how they will be successful over time across all conditions if persisted with," he said. "This is a result of sustaining with the same set of players.
"The top order has been together for a long time now. They are all experienced. Especially in this series, considering all the matches have produced 300-plus totals, you needed that, and so the experience counts. Where we have been hurt is our lower-order batting, that's where Manish did really well today."
As happy as he was with the batting, Dhoni hinted at a strong show with the ball towards the death that helped India save precious runs. India conceded just 28 off the last four overs to round off a mixed show, where Jasprit Bumrah, the debutant, was the pick of the lot with figures of 2 for 40 off his ten overs.
"The first four games were quite close but we didn't close it out well, which is important in the ODI format," he said. "Every over matters in a high-scoring game. If you bowl two or three overs that go for 15-20 runs it really puts a lot of pressure when you're chasing. It makes it easy for the opposition."
Dhoni felt the absence of a settled bowling group also played its part in the overall series score of 4-1 in Australia's favour. "We wanted to pick bowlers who hit the deck hard, we decided even if they go for runs, you still have guys who bowl fast," he explained. "This is perhaps the only time where our set of bowlers was faster than Australia's. That's the positive. But at the same time, you can't only rely on pace. You need to close down overs well. You can't keep giving away 15 or 20-run overs."
Looking ahead to the T20s, Dhoni said his biggest challenge was in managing some of the older players, albeit in a cryptic manner. "We have to improve our fielding slightly," he said. "A few of the experienced players will be joining us. The grounds here are big, and if you don't have a good shoulder, there will be a lot of pressure. That's what is crucial in conditions like these. If we manage that well, we will have an exciting T20 series."