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Match Analysis

Zampa wins the latest battle against Pandya

The Australian legspinner successfully figured out how to counter the Indian big-hitter after he had smashed him around earlier in the series

Alagappan Muthu
Alagappan Muthu
"I knew that I could hit a six off him anytime I wanted to."
Even for a man in red-hot form, that's a bold statement to make. But Hardik Pandya said it with his chin in his hands, a shrug of his shoulders and a tilt of the head. Much like one would say, "One plus one? Yeah, that's two."
It was a good thing that Adam Zampa wasn't at the press conference. He was overlooked by Australia after being biffed for three successive sixes, relegated to the bench at a time when wristspinners are very noticeably taking over one-day cricket. He didn't need to hear the man responsible for his fortunes plummeting sit in front of a room full of headline-hungry journalists and parade his dominance.
Zampa did, however, need to figure out how to counter Pandya if they were to meet again. So he trained, hitting the nets at every opportunity. He was one of the last players to finish practice when Australia were in Indore, working with spin consultant S Sriram.
Regardless of the amount of preparation, though, a spinner bowling to Pandya will know that he cannot err in the slightest. The India allrounder can, and has, hit sixes as soon as he arrives at the crease. That's what happened on Thursday when he launched the second ball he faced out of the ground. He also doesn't really need the room that most other batsmen like in order to free their arms. His bottom-handed power can compensate for that. Just the other day, Pandya was helicoptering sixes at the Holkar Stadium, as if he were showing off for MS Dhoni who was practicing alongside him.
Zampa would have known he had to face his rival again when Ashton Agar injured his hand in the third ODI. Australia had no other frontline spinner and with the series lost already, there was very little reason to fly a replacement in.
The battle began innocuously enough - two runs off five balls. But in the 28th over, Pandya crashed a six over midwicket and the follow-up delivery - aimed at the wide line outside off - sailed over deep cover. Hiding the ball away from the batsman's reach is how India have kept Glenn Maxwell quiet. But Pandya, by hitting through the line, as opposed to slogging across it or unnecessarily jumping down, posed a greater challenge.
Zampa was taken off. The seamers came back and Australia regained some control. But they couldn't break the partnership. Pandya and Kedar Jadhav had brought the equation down to 117 off 15 overs. Steven Smith turned to his under-fire legspinner again.
Zampa took the ball, knowing he was about to make or break the match. His first over back was, if nothing, well thought out and better executed. He mixed the tossed up deliveries with the quicker ones, trying his best to avoid being lined up at a ground with short boundaries. In Chennai, he had not really tried playing with his length like this, going full and often putting it right in the slot.
The 36th over cost only two runs. Zampa earned another shot at Pandya - this time with some pressure to work with - which might well have been Australia's plan all along. They gambled with some of Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile's overs, which helped keep the scoring in check and made the Indians feel like they had to find another source for quick runs.
Zampa began the 38th over with a fast and flat delivery angled into middle and leg stump. But he made sure to give it a good rip. He wanted Pandya to go for the slog, and if that happened, he gave himself the best chance of a wicket by making sure the ball would turn.
The plan worked and David Warner, taking the catch at long-off, celebrated with as much gusto as he did earlier in the day when he got to a hundred in his 100th ODI.
"Zamps is a really good wicket-taker and quite an aggressive bowler," acting coach David Saker said. "He came in today and bowled some really good balls and good stuff for us. Against Pandya, who is a dangerous hitter, if you get it a little bit wrong, he hits you out of the park. It's a learning curve for him, and for all of us bowling to him."
Australia passed the test at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, removing India's power-hitter before the last 10 overs could even begin, and that played no small part in breaking a year-long ODI losing streak away from home.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo