Australian pace ace Mitchell Starc’s devastating bowling (5/53) and openers Mitchell Marsh (66 not out) and Travis Head’s (51 not out) smashing unbeaten 121-run opening partnership helped the visitors thrash India by 10 wickets to level the three-match ODI series 1-1 in in Visakhapatnam on Sunday.
The Australians, set a lowly 118-run target to win the match, completed the job with 234 balls to spare, making it India’s worst-ever defeat in the 50-over format in terms of number of deliveries.
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After recording their fourth-lowest total at home and overall third lowest against Australia in ODIs, Indian bowlers were in for an uphill task. They, however, couldn’t do much on a pitch assisting seam and swing bowling, where Starc and Co. had earlier looked virtually unplayable.
Questions will be asked about India’s preparations for the ODI World Cup, to be held in the country later this year, following the morale-shattering loss.
But for now, it was all about how quickly Marsh and Head could end India’s misery on Sunday.
Marsh turned out to be the lead aggressor, smashing six boundaries and as many maximums off just 36 balls, while Head wasn’t too far behind, scoring his 51 off just 30 deliveries with 10 boundaries to complete India’s misery.
This was Australia’s second 10-wicket win over India in ODIs.
If Starc and Co. picked up the frailties in India’s batting line-up on seaming wickets quite fast, Marsh continued from where he had left off in the first ODI at Mumbai, bringing up his second consecutive fifty of the series.
The ultra-aggressive approach from Marsh and Head saw Australia race to 66 in the first six overs bowled by Mohammad Shami and Mohammed Siraj. The Indian quicks failed to find similar assistance from the surface and conditions that had earlier gladdened the Australian bowlers’ hearts.
The fate of the series will now be decided in the third ODI, to be played in Chennai on March 22.
It was Starc laid who laid the platform for the morale-boosting win by destroying India’s batting. The tall left-arm bowler once again turned out to be tormentor-in-chief as his five-wicket haul blew away India in just 26 overs.
Starc, who had three wickets in the previous game, took 5/53 in eight overs — including four in his first spell — as India found themselves in hot waters as soon as the match started.
With nip off the surface providing a lot of help, Starc bowled ideal back-of-the-length deliveries with a couple angled across the right-handers and a few which came in after pitching.
While the decisive damage was done by Starc, Sean Abbott (3/23) and Nathan Ellis (2/13) then bowled hard lengths to run through the lower-middle order in what turned out to be a disastrous day for the hosts.
Virat Kohli did hold one end up for a while with a 35-ball 31 and Axar Patel scored an entertaining unbeaten 29 studded with two sixes off Starc.
Their innings were the only bright spots for India with their batting exposed once again by swing and pace.
Australia pace spearhead Starc claimed four wickets in his opening spell of 6-1-31-4, removing Shubman Gill (0), Rohit Sharma (13), Suryakumar Yadav (0) and KL Rahul (9) to leave India in tatters, and their extended batting line-up consisting of Ravindra Jadeja (16) and Patel could not trouble the scorers much.
On what appeared to be a flight deck here, for the second time in the series, India were off to a poor start with Starc causing the maximum damage inside the first five overs, finding swing but no seam movement with overcast conditions and strong wind blowing across throughout the first innings.
After getting Shubman Gill (0) caught at point in the first over, he ended Kohli and Sharma’s rebuilding act in the fifth over.
Sharma flashed hard but was caught at first slip by Smith, who grabbed the moving ball in more than one attempt, and Starc struck again on the next delivery, trapping Yadav leg-before for a second consecutive first-ball duck in this series.
The left-arm pacer continued making inroads into the Indian batting line-up, striking once again in the ninth over to trap KL Rahul (9) leg-before.
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The batsman, after consultation with Kohli went upstairs, but DRS confirmed the field umpire’s call and India were left reeling at 48/4 inside nine overs.
There was no respite for India with Australia right-arm pacer Abbott producing an outside edge off the first ball in the 10th over, and Smith took a stunning one-handed diving catch on his right to make Hardik Pandya’s (1) trip to the middle a very short one.
Kohli and Jadeja did stop the procession for a while with their 22-run sixth-wicket stand, but the introduction of Nathan Ellis brought more gains for Australia.
The right-arm fast bowler, playing only his fourth ODI, got the key wicket of Kohli, pinning him in front of the wickets for a 35-ball 31 with four hits to the fence.
Jadeja was caught behind off Ellis and the Indian tailender didn’t last long as Starc bowled an unplayable delivery to Mohammed Siraj to clip the off-bail.