It's the 41st over of Australia innings, the match is hanging in balance. Glenn Maxwell is on a run-a-ball 53, Faulkner has faced just two balls. With Australia needing 65 needed off 60 balls, MS Dhoni hands the ball to Umesh Yadav who has figures of 7-0-41-1. Umesh finds some reverse and bowls a brilliant over conceding just one run, mounting the pressure.
Ravindra Jadeja bowls a decent over next up giving away just 5 runs. The equation is 59 from 48 balls now. Umesh is given a go ahead to continue but after three good balls he overpitches one, Maxwell clobbers him over long off for a six. The next delivery is on the pads, Maxwell clips it to mid-wicket for a couple. The next one is even worse - A high full toss - a no ball - which is hammered over covers for a four by Maxwell.
Another overpitched delivery — the free hit — is smashed but Kohli saves Umesh the blushes with a good save at extra cover to save three runs. 15 runs off the over and the momentum is totally shifted. Those two overs from Umesh encapsulated what's wrong with India not only at the MCG ODI but throughout the series — erratic, undisciplined and inconsistent bowling.
It's that perennial problem - bowling - that hit India again at the MCG at the cost of series loss this time around. It's been three matches in which the batsmen have managed to post decent totals (308, 309 and 295) but in all the three games, the hosts have managed to chase down the totals without being pushed to the limits.
"There are two options: either put pressure on (our) batsmen and score 330 or chase down the score, give them the batting first. These are the only two options we have got. We will have a look and decide what suits us the best." This statement from Dhoni after the 2nd ODI loss probably summed up the confidence he had in his bowlers.
The second option was out of the way when Australia won the toss and elected to bowl and despite the slow start the Indian batsmen recovered well to post a comparatively decent total on a relatively uneven MCG track compared to WACA and Gabba. Considering the dimensions of the ground, 295 was a decent total and VVS Laxman as well as MS Dhoni stressed on that fact after the match.
A good start was the need of the hour but after four probing deliveries, Umesh offered width to Shaun Marsh which was put away through point for a boundary. They never really built the pressure at the start as there was at least one boundary ball every over. Umesh and Sran missed their lines and lengths and conceded one four every over in first four overs. The poor fielding didn't help as Gurkeerat Singh put down a simple catch of Finch at mid off in the sixth over. However, that didn't cost much.
India had conceded ten fours inside first ten overs, whereas, the Australia pacers had conceded just four. That showed the gulf in discipline between the two teams. Sran - who was the India's most impressive bowler in the last two matches - was a pale shadow of himself as he bowled an array of half-volleys which were punished at the start of the innings and then his gentle medium pacers (mid 130s) were taken apart by Maxwell as he was too short and legsidish is his latter spells.
"Sran didn't have a very good day, so that put a lot of pressure on himself, and it became difficult for me to rotate the bowlers," Dhoni said in the presentation ceremony.
Poor start gave Australia the early momentum. But for the first time, India bowled well in the middle overs thanks to Jadeja and Ishant. However, every time it seemed the pressure could build, either Umesh or Sran gave away loose deliveries to let Australia continue the momentum and to add insult to injury, the fielders didn't help the cause.
Sample this, Umesh has just removed Finch off the first ball of the eighth over and the next ball he bowls to the new batsman - Steven Smith - is an innocuous half volley down the leg side for a wide. The frustration on Dhoni's face was palpable when a couple of deliveries on the pads were put away for consecutive fours by a relatively new batsman - Mitchell Marsh - off the final two balls of the 33rd over from Umesh. Yes, fielding was a problem but not bowling to the field was a bigger one.
"If you take the deep fine leg slightly wider and that's one area where you don't want to get hit for a boundary," Dhoni said in the post-match conference "And that's where off the two next balls, back-to-back boundaries are hit. It's a bit disappointing because the bowlers have played a lot of games, and you want to avoid that kind of a boundary. At times it feels like I can only try to bring in more pressure by making field changes, but it's all about execution," Dhoni added.
Ishant and Jadeja too struggled a bit at the death and by then, Maxwell had taken the match away from India. To add insult to injury, with 11 needed off 12, Maxwell continued his attack on Umesh with a six and four in the penultimate over before miscuing the next one to mid off, walking off for a brilliant 96. In the end, what looked like was going to be a close match was easily won by Australia with eight balls to spare. Umesh was inconsistent and conceded at 6.91 runs an over, Sran erratic and gave away runs at 7.87. Rishi Dhawan and Gurkeerat bowled well but they hardly looked threatening.
"We have to realise it's a very inexperienced bowling attack. Our spinners are experienced but the conditions here won't help them much. We are struggling a bit with the fast bowlers, it's good to see Ishant bowl very well in the middle overs but overall if you see once there is a bit of pressure on them, they start leaking runs and it becomes difficult to manage," Dhoni said after the match.
"Umesh Yadav has been on and off and there are others who have made their debuts here. So what we have to assess right now is how good the individuals are and what are they doing and what's their rate of development," Dhoni said in the press conference.
It's a bit mind-boggling how Dhoni called it an inexperienced attack. Ishant has played 78 ODIs, Umesh 55 and Jadeja 124 and the two debutants did decently. Australia on the other hand had a very inexperienced bowling line-up with the three pacers - Scott Boland (3), John Hastings (15) and Kane Richardson (10) having played just 28 ODIs between them with Faulkner the most experienced with 47 ODIs. However, they showed character in the last ODI with their death bowling and this match too with decent bowling at the start and death.
The three matches exposed India's lack of bench strength in the bowling department, they were erratic in the first two ODIs and gave away too many extras much to the frustration of Dhoni. Somewhere down the line it seemed as if they missed Mohammed Shami who was impressive in the World Cup.
"Dhoni would be distraught today," cricket expert Ayaz Memon said in his scathing post-match analysis on Firstpost after bowlers' poor performance.
Another good chance squandered, another century gone in vain, another series lost, it's the same old problem haunting India over and over again. And if the lessons aren't learnt then a whitewash is pretty much on the cards.