After losing four successive ODIs at home against Australia, India finally found a way to put up an above-par total and pull one back in Rajkot. As a result, with the ongoing series locked at 1-1, we will have a decider at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, which usually rolls out belters.
On the Rajkot pitch, an excellent one for batting, India looked like they might end at around 320, but KL Rahul’s middle order burst, ensured that the hosts got closer to 350. Against West Indies in December last year, Rahul had cracked 102 off 104 balls, in Visakhapattanam in a must-win game for India, and led them to an above-par total. On Friday, he was also at it in a similar must-win clash, although from the middle order, against a stronger bowling attack. Rahul also showed off his fast hands behind the stumps, proving a versatile white-ball package. He will now return to his home ground, with the series up for grabs.
The last time India played a limited-overs game at this venue, Rahul wasn’t part of the action, in a T20I series decider against South Africa Virat Kohli had challenged India to bat first there and while aiming for a big total, they lost their way and only got an underwhelming 134 for 9.
India have become a more potent white-ball outfit since, but count Australia out at your own peril. They out-thought and overpowered India in the ODI series opener in Mumbai and when Steven Smith and his “long-lost brother” Marnus Labuschange were in control in Rajkot, Australia did threaten to overhaul India’s 340 for 6.
On the bowling front, they have Adam Zampa, who seems to have Kohli’s number, and although Mitchell Starc travelled for runs in the second match, Australia carry a well-rounded attack that can adapt to easy-paced, hit-through-the line pitches. However, they will face a much stiffer challenge if they are to defend a target in dewy conditions in Bengaluru.