Chasing for the third time in the series, India found their tempo as Virat Kohli moved back to his preferred No 3 slot and helped them seal the game at Sydney. After putting up 164 batting first, Australia had a reasonable chance to beat India for a series win but faced with a rampant Kohli, they stood little chance.
Here is our report card from the final T20I of the series.
After a disastrous start to the Australian tour, Krunal Pandya ended the T20I series with career-best figures of 4/36, showcasing why he was picked in the side in the first place. The elder Pandya brother was unlucky to not complete a five-wicket haul as Aaron Finch was dropped by Rohit Sharma off his bowling early on. Krunal hit his channels soon after that dropped catch and dismissed D'Arcy Short and Ben McDermott off consecutive deliveries, both lbw to sliders from the left-arm spinner. He then added the wicket of Maxwell - the second time in the series he dismissed the Aussie after being thumped for three sixes in an over by the him in the first game - and dismissed Alex Carey as well to end with a four-wicket haul.
A modern day batting great, Kohli had been ordinary in T20Is in 2018 so far with 150 runs in 9 matches at 21.42 prior to the Sydney match. But the unstoppable giant he is, a run chase was all he needed to find his mojo. The skipper cracked a fine half-century under pressure even as men around him kept committing harakiri. Pacing his innings well, Kohli stood unbeaten in the run-chase, sealing the game in the final over with a couple of boundaries off Andrew Tye.
The Aussie leg-spinner experienced another fantastic outing as he kept asking Indian batsmen questions with his variations. After a wicket-maiden - in which he sent back Rohit Sharma with a flipper - in his first over, Zampa continued to remain economical and even troubled Kohli with his variations. His gave away just 22 runs in his four-over spell and pulled things back for Aussies.
Having decided that attacking Kuldeep was a flawed ploy, Australia sought to play him out and it shows in the wrist-spinner's figures. McDermott had claimed that the Aussies were starting to pick Kuldeep after the MCG game but still they refused to attack the spinner as he finished with figures of 1/19 from his four-over spell, the lone wicket coming off a poorly executed sweep from Aaron Finch.
The wicket-keeper batsman is having an incredible 2018 as far as T20s are concerned and his prowess in run-chases has been timely for India who are seeking to replace the gigantic presence of MS Dhoni in this format. Karthik clubbed a couple of crucial boundaries and remained unbeaten alongside Kohli after Australia crawled their way back into the game with the wickets of KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant.
Dhawan's 2018 got even better as he raced to 41 in 22 balls to follow up on his carnage in the first T20I. He has made more runs this year in T20I than he has made in his entire career and an average that lurked in the low 20s has shot up to above 40 this year. Rohit and Dhawan went hammer and tongs in the powerplay but Starc returned to dismiss Dhawan with an inswinging delivery.
After two years away from T20Is, Mitchell Starc made a resounding comeback, giving away just 26 in his four overs. He found movement, pace and swing and varied his lengths to keep the Indian batsmen guessing. After Dhawan's cameo, Starc returned in the final over of powerplay to send him back but an eleven run penultimate over cost the Aussies.
Maxwell walked in at No 3 to nullify the impact of the Indian spinners early on but appeared bogged down and restless in his stay at the wicket. After successfully reviewing an lbw decision off Kuldeep, Maxwell struck just one boundary, an edge off Khaleel Ahmed, before falling to Krunal Pandya. He, however, turned his day around with a fabulous bowling performance, a four-over spell that gave away just 25 and accounted for the wicket of Rahul. With Nathan Coulter-Nile having an off day, Australia were relieved to know that Maxwell could be relied upon.
Walking in before the 10th over, Alex Carey had an opportunity to make a lasting impression and seemed set to do so as he played some fine shots enroute 27 at a strike rate of over 140. After hitting Krunal for back-to-back boundaries in the 16th over, Carey got greedy and attempted an ill-advised slog sweep to fall before the death overs.
As Dhawan went on a boundary-hitting spree, Rohit chose to sit back and enjoy the show. In an opening stand worth 67 that came in less than six overs, Rohit made just 23 although he managed to hit a couple of sixes himself. The introduction of Zampa led to his downfall with leg-spin not being his favoured kind of bowling. The Aussie leggie sent back Rohit with a flipper, that rushed past his edge to hit the stumps.
After helping Australia finish strong with the bat with his quickfire 15-ball 25, Stoinis' day went downhill as Rohit and Dhawan slammed him for 22 in one over. Surprisingly, he wasn't used in the death where his change of pace against Kohli and Karthik would have been handy.
After a golden duck at the MCG, Finch started his innings at Sydney with a cracking pull off Khaleel. He played the role of a second fiddle as D'Arcy Short went on the attack early on. When Khaleel came back on in the fifth over, Finch was quick to dismiss him for a couple more boundaries but was lucky to escape against Krunal as Rohit shelled a sitter. Finch, though, could not make it count as he top-edged the sweep off Kuldeep to fine-leg in the next over.
The fact that he was still in the XI was perhaps due to lack of batting options in Australia's squad. In a short cameo here at the SCG, Short showed why he could be a dangerous, yet vulnerable, batsman in this format of the game. He was off to a flier against the Indian seamers and raced to 24 in 19 balls in the powerplay. As the spinners came on, Short struggled, much like in the IPL. He made 9 from 10 balls played after the powerplay, eventually falling to Pandya as he went for a sweep off an arm ball.
After a rip-roaring new-ball spell at MCG, Bhuvneshwar Kumar had a decent opening spell on Sunday at Sydney but failed to create a similar impact. His death bowling has suffered in recent times and the script didn't change much as he went for 21 in his final two overs. As a new-ball bowler, though, Bhuvneshwar continues to be economical and threatening.
Khaleel had another off day at Sydney as he bowled that nothing length which the Aussie batsmen hung back and pulled or cut fiercely. These are early days for Khaleel but with the kind of talent coming through for India, he might want to string together a series of consistent performances to make a lasting impression.
Bumrah for once wasn't the miserly, unplayable bowler with Stoinis and Coulter-Nile clubbing him for fifteen in his final over. Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar together leaked 44 in the final four overs as the Aussies experienced a decent few overs in the death to put up a competitive total. Bumrah will want to hit the ground running as the Test series come up and the T20Is seem to have given him a good idea of the conditions on offer.
Lynn surprisingly didn't come on until the fourth wicket had fallen and appeared uneasy against the spinners. He opened up when Bhuvneshwar came on in the death but fell to Bumrah next over without making much of an impact. With the kind of game he plays, Australia should look to utilise the 'Lynnsanity' in the powerplay overs.
The Australian death-over specialist was left with little to do after Starc conceded 11 runs in the penultimate over of the match. In the final over, he contained Kohli for the first two balls before conceding back-to-back boundaries as India levelled the T20I series. Tye, the top wicket-taker in the format this year, has had a poor series with his eocnomy rate being a major concern. At Sydney, his 3.4 overs went for 32 runs.
After a pretty well paced and responsible knock at the MCG even as wickets kept falling around him, McDermott fell for a golden Duck at Sydney courtesy a poorly executed sweep. The Australian batsman looked to play across the line against Pandya and was trapped in front for as he missed a slider.
Rahul had another chance to make a positive impact but squandered the opportunity with a sluggish 14 coming off 20 balls. He misread Maxwell's flight as he danced down the track, only to gift a catch to long-off. With India's middle-order options in plenty, Rahul will quickly want to make an impact.
After making big statements before the series with his comments against Rohit's "compulsive pull", Coulter-Nile failed to live up to his talk in the series. His short ball against Rohit failed to make desired impact as the opener pulled him for six and in his first three overs, Coulter-Nile went for 40.
With India needing 57 in seven overs and Kohli at one end, all Pant had to do, as he walked in after Rahul's dismissal, was to rotate strike and find the right tempo. Instead the swashbuckling wicketkeeper-batsman went for a flashy pull but was deceived by Tye's slower ball and ended up giving a catch to the keeper.
Rating chart: 10-9: Excellent, 8-7: Good, 6-5: Average, 4-3: Poor, 2-1: Very poor
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