MS Dhoni's team narrowly avoided a 5-0 whitewash in the ODI series as Manish Pandey made his maiden ODI century to take India to a record chase Down Under with a ball to spare. Veteran cricket journalist Ayaz Memon, or Cricketwallah as he is known, analyses the Sydney ODI in an exclusive chat with Firstpost.
Dhoni, who chose to bowl after calling the toss right, saw his team concede 330 runs despite reducing Australia to 117 for 4, thanks to centuries from David Warner and Mitchell Marsh. India, like in Canberra, had to put up a never-before-achieved chase in Australia to get a consolation win. And they did that thanks to excellent knocks from Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Manish Pandey and an iffy, but crucial, innings from Dhoni himself at the end.
In conversation with Firstpost's Vinayakk Mohanarangan, Ayaz gives his take on India's win and the hero of the day, Manish Pandey.
"Young Manish Pandey held his nerve. What a tense game this was! For him to have to led the team to victory when it looked at a stage when Dhoni was struggling for his timing, you felt that the match was squandered despite the top-order's efforts," Ayaz told Firstpost. "Look at the way he batted, especially in the last 5-7 overs. Fantastic temperament, great running between the wickets, and don't forget he was the pick of the Indian fielders too."
"At a big stage, Manish Pandey was India's hero in every sense of the word," he added. Ayaz also spoke about his form in domestic cricket and his role in Karnataka's dominance.
Responding to some pointed queries on Twitter about Dhoni's innings - one person asked if this was the end of the ODI road for him, while another quipped if it was Dhoni out in the middle or Sushant Singh Rajput playing Dhoni's role - Ayaz said the pressure is definitely on the captain but he did wonder if this win might help him win his mojo back.
"He's not at his best, because he is not playing enough competitive cricket after his retirement from Tests," said Ayaz before adding that he hopes to see a much more spirited Dhoni after this win. He also spoke about Ravichandran Ashwin's disappointing tour Down Under so far.
Ayaz was full of praise for what is actually quite an inexperienced Australian team for ending up deserved winners of the five-match series.
Firstpost's Game plan with Ayaz Memon will be streamed live on Periscope and on Firstpost website also at the end of each of the upcoming three-match T20I series Down Under. Follow @FirstpostSports on Twitter for more details.
Match review: Pandey's ton guides India to consolation win
Sydney, Jan 23 (IANS) Riding on a splendid unbeaten century by young Manish Pandey and Rohit Sharma's 99, India chased down a mammoth 331-run target in a nail biting finish to win the fifth and final One-Day International (ODI) by six wickets against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground here on Saturday.
En route to his maiden ODI ton, Pandey smashed one six and eight boundaries to remain unbeaten in his 81-ball knock and steer his team to victory. Rohit struck one six and nine boundaries in his 108-ball knock, while fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan scored 78.
Batting first, Australia posted 330/7 in 50 overs, thanks to centuries from David Warner (122) and Mitchell Marsh (102 not out). But India chased down the total to post 331/4 with two balls remaining with the help of three superb innings.
Despite losing the fifth ODI, Australia take the series 4-1 after a dominant show in the entire series.
Chasing a challenging total, India got off to a flying start with both in-form openers Rohit and Dhawan smashing the bowlers to all parts of the ground to stay ahead of the required run-rate.
At the end of 10 overs, India piled up 68 without losing a wicket. The duo pressed on, bringing up the 100-run partnership for the first wicket in the 16th over to put pressure on the opposition. But soon after scoring a quick-fire half-century, Dhawan, trying to up the scoring rate fell in the 19th over to Hastings.
The visitors received a double blow when Hastings dismissed the in-form Virat Kohli for just eight. Kohli tried drive an outside off stump delivery, but only managed to edge it to keeper Matthew Wade to have India in trouble at 134/2 in 20.2 overs.
From there on it was a massive task for the middle order batsmen to give company to Rohit and incoming batsman Pandey did the exact thing. The duo piled on 97-run partnership for the third wicket.
As Rohit was looking to notch up his 11th ODI ton, he was once again dismissed by Hastings just one short of his third century of the series.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (34 off 42) provided support to Pandey from the other end.
Earlier on in the day, put into bat by India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the hosts were in the back foot right in the very first over as Ishant trapped Aaron Finch leg-before off the sixth ball to have Australia at 6/1.
Incoming batsman and skipper Steve Smith (28) gave good company to Warner but his stay in the crease did not last too long. Debutant Jasprit Bumrah's short delivery on off was misjudged by Finch, only to have him caught at midwicket by Rohit Sharma. Australia were 64/2 in 11.5 overs.
From there on, the visitors bowled some tight spells and were lucky enough to have another in-form batsman George Bailey (6) and Shaun Marsh (7) back in the pavilion inside the 22nd over to have Australia in a spot of bother at 117/4.
Warner on the other hand, kept piling on runs as he kept on losing teammates in the other end.
With four wickets down and 25 overs to go in the innings, the home side needed someone to stick around along with Warner and incoming batsman Mitchell was the saviour for the hosts. The youngster not only sneaked in the ones and twos, but also managed to put pressure on the Indian bowlers with some handy boundaries.
The duo piled on a 118-run partnership for the fifth wicket to help the Australians get close to the 250-run mark. Warner fell in the 39th over while trying to up the scoring rate, but the damage was done by then.
Matthew Wade (36 off 27) too smashed the ball in his short lived innings. Debutant Jasprit Bumrah (2/40) impressed in his first international outing alongside Ishant Sharma (2/60).