Zampa and Co stifle India to take series 2-1
Australia snapped India's four-year unbeaten streak in home ODIs with a thrilling win in Chennai
Australia 269 all out (Marsh 47, Hardik 3-44, Kuldeep 3-56) beat India 248 (Kohli 54, Zampa 4-45) by 21 runs
Australia snatched the No. 1 ODI ranking and snapped India's four-year unbeaten series streak at home with a thrilling win in the defence of 269 in Chennai. Australia went all in from the moment they won the toss and gambled against the dew by choosing to bat on a dry and soft surface. They attacked the new ball in the powerplay, but kept attacking, which resulted in quite a few starts but no fifty.
The bowlers then hung in despite a quick start from India, their two spinners Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar took six wickets between them to drag India back from 65 for 0 and 146 for 2. The defence was all the more remarkable because Cameron Green's illness left Australia with Marcus Stoinis as the fifth bowler. Stoinis was a revelation, though, bowling 9.1 overs for just 43 runs and a wicket.
Both the innings progressed similarly: a quick start to maximise the powerplay and the new ball followed by the pitch playing tricks, and some aggressive options taken by batters resulting in soft-looking dismissals. The most uncharacteristic perhaps was Virat Kohli holing out to long-off in Ashton Agar's last over after scoring the only half-century of the match, with Hardik Pandya scoring quickly at the other end, and the requirement under a run a ball.
Kohli's dismissal, followed by a third straight golden duck for Suryakumar Yadav, left India needing 85 off 88 with four wickets in hand. It seemed Pandya, who had earlier dragged Australia back from a rapid start with figures of 8-0-44-3, would see India through, but he, too, chose the big shot over taking the game deep. His slog off Zampa with 52 required off 39 brought in the tail. Needing to do all the scoring himself, even Ravindra Jadeja slogged at a Zampa wrong'un, leaving the tail an improbable 45 to get off 29.
These risks were uncharacteristic largely of India, in that they came from both ends and at times when India had got the asking rate under control.
When Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma got off to a flier, scoring 65 in 9.1 overs, it looked like the pitch had hurried up under the lights. The first two wickets didn't have much to do with the pitch. Rohit fell trying to maximise the last powerplay over, and Gill got his pad in the way of a drifting half-volley from Zampa.
After that, though, Kohli batted beautifully to go at a run a ball without taking any risks even when Agar turned some balls alarmingly across the right-hand batters. Even when Kohli and KL Rahul went eight overs without a boundary, there was no panic around. Rahul then pushed India ahead with a burst of a six and two fours and a six off Zampa and Mitchell Starc.
It seemed now that the plan was for Kohli to anchor the chase and the other end to go for big hits. One such hit came off the toe of Rahul's bat and settled with long-on. Axar Patel was promoted and was immediately run out thanks to brilliant fielding from Steve Smith and keeping from Alex Carey.
Pandya again calmed the chase down by hitting a six and a four in the first five balls he faced. With Pandya doing the quick scoring at the other end, Kohli perhaps didn't need to start going himself. Especially in the last over of the dangerous Agar. But go he did, perhaps because he wanted to get some scoring done before the extra fielder went out in the last 10.
Australia's batters might be asking similar questions of themselves, but they had more depth in their batting than India did. Nor did they know the total they needed to get.
When it started, the first target was to make the most out of the powerplay, which Mitchell Marsh and Travis Head did even though the first puff of dust from the surface was seen as early as the fourth over. India had to bring spin on in the sixth over to have their first over without a boundary. Marsh was brutal, Head kept finding areas square on the wicket. Once spin came on, though, it was apparent scoring would have to slow down outside the powerplay, which took Australia to 61 for 0.
Pandya's introduction put on immediate brakes. Head found deep third when upper-cutting, Smith drove on the up but the cross-seam delivery moved away after pitching to take his edge, and Marsh played on to be dismissed for under 50 for the first time in the series.
David Warner, playing only for the second time in the middle order in his ODI career, and Marnus Labuschagne finally seemed to get into accumulation mode, but it didn't continue for long. With Jadeja denying them runs by bowling accurately, they took Kuldeep Yadav on.
Even though one top-edged slog-sweep from Labuschagne went for six only because the fielder was in off the rope, the two kept attacking. Warner found long-off trying to hit over long-on, and Labuschagne holed out to long-off, both against-the-spin shots.
Even at 138 for 5 in the 29th over, Australia kept attacking. Stoinis and Carey, though, did it differently, by sweeping and reverse-sweeping. A no-ball for failure to follow field restrictions helped as Carey deposited the free hit for a six. Presumably to capitalise the last few overs before an extra fielder goes back, Stoinis and Carey began to take bigger risks. Stoinis picked out long-on at the end of the 37th over. Carey got lucky in the next over with his flashing blade, but big turn from Kuldeep bowled him in the 39th. The two added 58 in 53 legal deliveries.
Seven down before the 40th over, Australia again were under the threat of having overaimed and finally achieving an underwhelming score. However, Sean Abbott led the lower order with 26 off 23, and Nos 9, 10 and 11 scored 17, 10 and 10 not out. The last wicket added 22. Australia won by 21.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo