From the day the Australian cricket team set foot on the sub-continent, talks started whether the modern rivalry could resume the high-scoring run fest just like the 2013 series. But it turned out to be an anticlimax, after all. The ODIs were lopsided and just when there was an opening for an exciting finish to Australia's tour in the T20I, Hyderabad's inadequacy robbed us off it. It was a disappointment to see the T20 series couldn't have a winner. But the Australians, especially selector Mark Waugh, would be delighted the tour had come to an end given that the Ashes is nigh.
Having said that, there were a few positives for the visitors in the shortest format. Jason Behrendorff impressed the most and Australia would be delighted to have him as a backup in case Mitchell Starc breaks down. Adam Zampa bounced back from what was a dispiriting ODI series. If you need a testimony, go back and watch the replays of the MS Dhoni dismissal in the second T20I, where Zampa had Dhoni (Dhoni!) stumped.
Many thought Steve Smith's absence would hurt them, but Australia put up a great fight in both the matches. They had India under pressure in the 1st T20I, forcing them to chase it off in the final over, and then, produced their most dominating performance of the tour in Guwahati to level the series. Now, as they head back to Australia to prepare for the long-awaited clash with England, let us see how David Warner's men fared in the T20I series:
Jason Behrendorff 10/10
Let us, for a moment, forget Behrendorff's Guwahati spell and revisit his one over in his debut. The fact that he conceded a boundary off his first ball didn't deter him. He responded brilliantly and bowled tight lines. He even managed to beat Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. It was a shame that he could bowl only six balls. Who knows what he could've done had he been given another go?
Well, we found out in the second T20I. Everyone is aware that quality left-arm pacers are India's nemesis and Behrendorff just underlined it further. He swung it in, jagged it away, dismissed Virat Kohli for a silver duck and broke the back of India's batting line-up. He must have left the Guwahati crowd wanting for more, and his 4-21 spell would have inspired a couple of kids in the stadium, who aspire to be fast bowlers.
Aaron Finch 6/10
When Finch gets going, you just know that Warner and Australia would have it easy. We saw that in the Indore ODI, where he marked his comeback with a lovely century. He did just that at Ranchi as he stormed to 42 off 30 balls. But he lost his sheen thereafter and departed for eight runs in the Guwahati T20I. Finch, being a mainstay in the Australian batting department, would have liked more consistency.
David Warner 4/10
Warner loves playing the shortest format in India. Ask Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) fans and they won't stop reminiscing about it. So, the way he opened his account at Ranchi wasn't surprising at all: two back-to-back boundaries. But Bhuvneshwar Kumar, his SRH teammate responded by castling the Australia's stand-in skipper. That little cameo by Warner and some astute captaincy in Guwahati helped the southpaw earn four marks.
Glenn Maxwell 3/10
Sent up the order: check.
Play ridiculous shots for singles: check.
Throw your wicket away in frustration: check.
When players like Maxwell are in full flow, it is a treat to watch them. But when they struggle, it just gets excruciatingly hard and frustrating to watch them play. The latter, unfortunately, was the case in the first match. Given a responsibility of playing through the 20 overs, the Australian team management promoted Maxwell to No 3. With only two fielders outside the circle, the first few balls should've been a cakewalk to Maxwell. Except they were not. Maxwell's middle of the bat didn't feature in his 16-ball 17-run knock. However, he stood there and tried to grind it out until Yuzvendra Chahal came into the attack. Wonder whether it was the sight of Chahal or the psychological pressure but Maxwell handed a lollipop catch to Jasprit Bumrah at mid-wicket.
Nathan Coulter-Nile 7/10
When the Ranchi T20I was shortened to a six-over chase and Australia could allow only one bowler to bowl two overs, Coulter-Nile was always going to get the nod. It had to be, given his impressive performances in the ODI series. And on his second ball, he uprooted Rohit Sharma's middle stump.
In Guwahati, when Behrendorff was dismantling the Indian batting department, Coulter-Nile took a backseat and let the rookie enjoy his limelight. He checked the run flow and kept the batsmen on toes. Behrendorff reaped the rewards of Coulter-Nile's supporting act and eventually snared four wickets.
Daniel Christian 3/10
Christian is a very handy player. He won't be the first pick in an ideal T20 line-up, but add him and the captain will understand his value. He's a brilliant fielder, who can be the perfect fifth bowler, and can hit the ball out of the park when needed. So the snub for Stoinis, even though he was economical, in the second game came as a mild surprise.
It's worth pondering whether Steve Smith, his Indian Premier League (IPL) captain, would've used Christian differently. Given the lack of opportunities and a low-key performance at Ranchi, Christian scores three.
Travis Head 6/10
Head began the tour with a solid half-century in the practice match. Since then the runs deserted him. This might put his Ashes dream in jeopardy. By his own admission, he was aware that needed to get runs to achieve what he wished for. And he did.
A 119-run chase is never intimidating. But when the team lost their captain and a senior batsman in a jam-packed stadium that is cheering the hosts after every dot ball, things tend to become difficult. At such a crucial juncture, Head sauntered at the crease in Guwahati and played a no-nonsense kind of innings. While a 48 at a healthy strike rate of 141.18 won't put him on the selector's radar, but it would surely give him the confidence going into the Sheffield Shield matches.
Moises Henriques 7/10
Number five isn't where you regularly see Henriques bat. Mind you, he can strike the ball, but he prefers to do that after anchoring the innings. Hence, he had a poor outing in Ranchi. But when he was given the responsibility to bat one down in the second match, he grabbed it with both hands. He negated the early threat from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, and slammed Kuldeep Yadav all over the park in his unbeaten 62-run innings.
Tim Paine 5/10
Thanks to a solid show behind the stumps, Paine finds himself in the pecking order for the Ashes selection. It is definitely a long shot but the selectors will know they have a reliable wicketkeeper in the Tasmanian. Although, he didn't get to bat in the second match, he did a decent job in Ranchi; scoring 17 off 16 runs.
Adam Zampa 8/10
When a bowler leaves Dhoni, a magnificent batsman of spin bowling, short of options other than using his feet, you just have to admit that he was excellent. Dhoni shimmied down the track a few times in Guwahati but didn't go for a big one. Perhaps, he wanted to play responsibly, given that India were in a precarious position, but it also highlighted how Zampa was making him struggle. Realising Dhoni's ploy of using his feet, Zampa bowled one shorter and turned it away from the former Indian skipper to have him stumped.
Zampa 1, Dhoni 0.
Andrew Tye 6/10
Tye is an exciting bowler. Those who follow IPL or Australian cricket in general would know how effective Tye is with those knuckleballs. Tye was the first change bowler and did a decent enough job. Though he wasn't among the wickets in the first match, he finally scalped one off the last ball of the Guwahati spell.
Marcus Stoinis 7/10
Australia missed Stoinis in the first match because he couldn't make it to Ranchi on time after being named as Steve Smith's replacement. He could've been the difference between a 118 and 135. Such is his batting influence. But when he was drafted into the eleven for the second game, he wasn't needed as a batsman. Instead he sent down 16 deliveries at an economy of five and picked a wicket.