Australia steal win with Faulkner blitz
Australia 304 for 6 (Voges 76*, Faulkner 64*) beat India 303 for 9 (Dhoni 139*, Kohli 68, Johnson 4-46) by four wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
While lifting India from 76 for 4 to 303 for 9, MS Dhoni had spoiled James Faulkner's figures at the death. Faulkner took it out on Ishant Sharma at the death in Australia's chase. Rarely, if ever, has a bowler lost it so completely while bowling to a fellow bowler. Australia needed 44 off 18 when Ishant was given the ball. Six balls and 30 runs later off Faulkner's bat, the game was effectively over.
Australia's chase had started strongly, but had been suffocated mid-innings, chiefly by Ravindra Jadeja's ten overs for 31 runs. George Bailey and Adam Voges had tried to keep pace, but the asking rate continued to climb. Voges had gamely hung on amid a clutch of middle-order wickets, including his own mix-up with Glenn Maxwell, when Faulkner joined him at 213 for 6. While their partnership lasted and grew, it seemed more a belated and inadequate attempt than a threatening one.
Then Ishant was brought back for the 48th over. If you can apply brevity to carnage, here is what happened. Full and wide, four. Short, six. Length, six. Short, two. Short, six. Short, six. By the time he pulled that last six into a shocked Mohali crowd, Faulkner had blasted 54 off 24, and Australia needed 14 off 12.
R Ashwin conceded only five in the 49th, but the damage was irreversible. Seeing his blinder of a century being nullified by his bowler's meltdown, Dhoni refused to give in. Seeing Faulkner was basically swinging them into the leg side, he put all the four permissible deep fielders there, including two long-ons. He needn't have bothered. With six needed off four, Vinay Kumar delivered a full toss, and Faulkner swung it over all those deep fielders.
One wonders what Dhoni feels seeing his bowlers do what they usually do - lose limited-overs games for him. More than that, one wonders how he manages to keep what he feels to himself when one of his bowlers is going through his latest meltdown. It is hard being Dhoni.
When India batted, he twisted his ankle in the 14th over while turning for a second run. He hadn't even faced a ball. He took treatment, reached 50 off 77, and then accelerated to his ninth ODI hundred in the next 30. Dhoni's favourite territory, the final stage of the innings, was yet to arrive. The Australia captain dropped him first ball of the penultimate over, off Shane Watson. Dhoni pulverized 34 off the final 12 deliveries to end unbeaten on 139, the third-highest score by a No 6 batsman, after Kapil Dev and Andrew Symonds. Even if it was normal service coming from Dhoni, that did not make the innings any less mind-boggling.
The last time Dhoni made an ODI century, in December 2012, he took India from 29 for 5 against Pakistan to 227 for 6. Helping him that day was Ashwin, who was around today as well, showing superb calm in adding 76 for the seventh wicket with his captain. Before that, Virat Kohli had been an equal partner in a fifth-wicket stand of 72, but had fallen against the run of play for his third successive score of 50-plus this series.
Admirable as these twin acts were, they were supporting ones. The stage belonged to Dhoni, who once again showed the entire range of his limited-overs batsmanship - from precisely-judged singles to hustling twos, from deftly placed boundaries to the late, towering sixes. And yes, he turned down three singles in the last two overs with Vinay at the other end.
Dhoni hit one four in his first 67 deliveries. He ended with 12 fours and five sixes. Faulkner's first eight overs went for 33, including just one run off the 46th. Dhoni hung back in the crease at the end, pulling out scythes, slices, slogs, helicopter-swings. Faulker's last two overs went for 32. Between those two overs, the threat of Dhoni made even as experienced a man as Shane Watson bowl two wides.
Before all this Dhoni frenzy, India's specialist batsmen had been roughed up for the second time in three games by Australian pace and bounce, especially by Johnson. But after the Dhoni frenzy, for the second time in the match, Australia frittered away a strong position. A start of 68 for 0 in 12.1 overs became 88 for 3 in 19.1. India's bowlers did well, bringing their side back with tight lines and lengths that squeezed the runs and built pressure.
Voges ran hard and kept hitting the odd boundary, but the game was slipping away from Australia. Queerly, Dhoni handed the ball to Kohli in the 40th over, which went for 18, courtesy Brad Haddin. The wicketkeeper's cameo ensured Australia were not completely out of it yet, despite the big overs Dhoni had managed late in India's innings. As it turned out, while they had Dhoni, India also had Ishant, and Faulkner was ready.
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo