Unrelenting bowling line-up offers India fresh edge
The ball is sailing into the crowd, a white speck scurrying away from pure destruction. Glenn Maxwell is at the crease and his first two scoring shots are sixes, slog sweeps meant to question why the bowler thought it was a good idea to get out of bed in the morning.
At the other end stood Steven Smith, playing his 100th ODI, concentrating so hard. Perhaps he had found a way to channel his will not to get out and share it with his team-mates. Finally, all that fidgeting will start to make sense. The grabbing of the pad, the waving of the bat, the yanking of the helmet - they are simply the gestures that enact a magical spell.
It is at times like these that India's bowlers have come undone. And in Kolkata they didn't even have a proper score on the board.
"In modern-day cricket, 252 was not a big total to defend," Bhuvneshwar Kumar said. "But we knew if we had to win, we have to keep taking wickets. That's what we were talking about [in the change of innings] There was no bad mood, no one was upset when we got out for 250. All the captain and management wanted was to believe each other and believe in our abilities and that's what we did."
A sprinkle of rain just as the first innings ended and the zip that is on offer to the new ball under lights evened the scales further. And Bhuvneshwar tipped it right over. He had ambushed New Zealand in the dark here last season. Australia were next.
Shifting wide of the crease, he ran in to makeshift opener Hilton Cartwright. The bat came down, lacking conviction, betraying nerves. The ball clearly did not like what it saw and decided to shack up with the off stump instead.
Wickets such as these, while being spectacular on their own, happen only when there is pressure. Tangible, toxic and ever-present. India sometimes struggle to do that because they would give away soft overs; a few too many short balls, a few that head down the leg side.
At Eden Gardens, there were four wicket maidens, and one of them included a hat-trick.
Kuldeep Yadav at the ground he calls home in the IPL made the stadium bellow the loudest - in a game where Virat Kohli made 92 - when he bowled Matthew Wade, trapped Ashton Agar lbw and had Pat Cummins caught behind to hasten Australia's downfall. From 106 for 3, they were suddenly 148 for 8.
The 22-year-old left-arm wristspinner had been labelled hard to read by his opposition. But that advantage amounts to little if he isn't accurate. So he threatens the stumps as much as possible, and seems able to avoid pitching too many too short. That error tends to occur when a bowler is trying to rip it square, which in turn would mean Kuldeep is already becoming confident in his abilities; that he doesn't need to go out of his way to be a threat.
On Wednesday, he called out one of the most destructive batsmen of this era. But David Warner couldn't last long enough for that battle to even happen. On Thursday, he became only the second wristspinner in ODI history to claim a hat-trick. The last time an Indian took one, he wasn't even born.
There is another reason this Indian attack is exciting. In the past, there have been times when batting sides can block out the spearhead and win the match. But with a genuine swing bowler, a tearaway quick with an unusual action, two wristspinners and a hit-the-deck allrounder, they have most tools necessary to exploit helpful conditions.
Coming into the match, India had won after putting up 250 or less only 61 times in 196 tries. They might have made two runs more here but that record suggests they are not very good at defending scores in this range. They needed to do better than they have done before. And they knew they could the moment Bhuvneshwar let the first one rip.
Listen to him deconstructing the Warner dismissal: 1 off 9, nicked off to slip, no feet.
"I bowl outswingers to him, in Tests also I mostly bowl outswingers to him, so I knew there is a good chance I can get him out with outswingers. That's how I planned. And for Cartwright, there was a normal plan, bowling to the top of off stump and bowling outswingers to him."
Bhuvneshwar's opening spell read 6-2-9-2. He would later be asked to bowl one more ball. And it won India the match.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo