This could easily be an episode of Friends. Just trade Central Perk for Ranchi, remove Matthew Perry and Matt Le Blanc and throw Glenn Maxwell and Aaron Finch into the mix. The two Australian batsmen are perfectly suited to play Chandler Bing and Joey Tribbiani. Like the on-screen characters, they are excellent mates, and have even shared an apartment in Melbourne at one point. Now, they are out on a speed date with India's bowlers and have to look out for each other.
But, hey, who are we kidding? Finch needs little looking after. He has charmed his way into the such good form, and he has done it so very easily, that he was Australia's leading run-getter in the ODI series, playing only three of the five matches. Maxwell, meanwhile, has tried everything only to be shot down.
Facing his second delivery from Jasprit Bumrah, he cleared his front leg and hoisted his bat as if to hack someone. That violent prelude ultimately culminated in a jittery dab to third man for one. Later, against Bhuvneshwar Kumar, there were a couple of hopeful swipes that would have left the off stump he was supposed to protect cringing. Finch knew his partner needed help and so he showed how it was done.
Hardik Pandya had stuffed the area between point and mid-off with five fielders, and unleashed the knuckle ball. The idea was to mess with the batsman's timing and it would have worked if Finch had been throwing himself at the ball as eagerly as Maxwell. But he was a little more artful than that. Only after the ball had signalled its intentions, coming close to his body, did he gently lob it over the infield. The shot that followed was smoother than Joey's catchphrase as Finch cut all along the ground and perfectly into the gap.
Australia had got to 49 for 1 in six overs, and in light of that foundation, and with Finch as his wingman, it looked like Maxwell might finally prosper. But, India had what it took to spook him. Again.
Yuzvendra Chahal is no Moriarty but Maxwell wasn't Sherlock Holmes either. On this tour, he is just awkward, edgy and down-on-luck Chandler. The first ball of the contest was cut for a couple, the second for a four, and the third was a long hop which was pulled straight to a newly-placed short midwicket. In what was almost a self-deprecatory punchline, Chahal turned around, hid his face in his hands and smiled sheepishly. He had just dismissed Maxwell four times in four tries.
And, that's when the infamous unravelling of the Australian middle order began. Three overs later, Finch, who was sweeping compulsively and effectively, was bowled when Kuldeep Yadav adapted to the challenge in front of him with a fuller and faster delivery. A last-minute adjustment to offer the straight bat came too late, and Finch's pick-up line fell flat for once.
Australia have spoken all tour about having a "game plan" against spin but on Saturday they were undone by sticking to them too rigidly. Against a varied and potent bowling attack, and on a pitch that wasn't really helping strokeplay, pre-match preparation amounts to little if the batsmen cannot think on their feet. They came in looking to either sweep - or like Moises Henriques, run out and slog - the spinners and neither worked.
Finch disagreed with that assessment, however, and instead offered as explanation a word that had plenty of airtime during the Test series between India and Australia earlier this year - "brain-fade".
"I thought on that wicket, to Kuldeep, sweeping was a safer option than taking him over the top," he said. "Some balls were spinning. It was hard to judge the bounce on a track that was quite difficult. I found sweep was the safer option. One, to get off strike, and [two,] to get a boundary as well if I could pick out a gap. But I kept picking out a fielder. The ball that I got out on was a little bit of brain fade, I went to sweep and just tried to chip him on the on side for one, and missed it. It happens in the games, in particular in T20s."
When he was asked if Australia could have approached the middle more cautiously, Finch said the presence of Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah at the death made batsmen take more risks in the middle stages. "When you look at the history of this ground, it suggests that 150 is a par score or the average score batting first on this surface. We wanted to make sure we were up and around that mark.
"We knew with how competent their bowlers are at the death. Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah, in particular, are two of the finest going around at executing in the end. We felt we had to play a little bit more high-risk game through the middle overs to maximise. Unfortunately we just kept losing wickets."
Despite Maxwell's poor run, Finch felt he wasn't far away from a big score. "It's always tough when someone gets dropped. I've been there, I know that feeling all too well," he said. "Particularly on a tour, you tend to go into a shell, but he was the exact opposite. He was up and about around the group and doing everything to help anybody perform well on the day.
"He has had a couple of unlucky dismissals. He batted well in the first ODI but it was a rain-shortened match. He is batting well in the nets and he is doing everything he can. Sometimes form just eludes you a little bit. But we've seen how dominant and destructive he is in these conditions before so I don't think it is far away. Just a few game-plan tinkers here and there would go a long way in just taking the pressure off himself.
"He probably feels that people expect him to score at 200 [strike-rate]. Batting at No. 3 is a different responsibility in this format for him. I know he's opened a couple of time, but he is predominantly a middle-over player. It's a tough position to bat; some guys love it, some guys don't. It is one of those positions that can be such a swing type of position in the order."