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Runs, runs and runs; that’s been the theme of the series so far but with bigger boundaries at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Stadium in Raipur, making its T20I debut, the script wasn’t on expected lines as Australia despite restricting India almost 25 runs below 200, fell short by 20 runs, allowing India to win the contest and pocket the series 3-1.
Australia desperately missed the services of Glenn Maxwell, whose pyrotechnics with the bat delayed India the series win in the third game in Guwahati, as the equation boiled down to a similar 40 runs from the last 12 balls, with Matthew Wade (36 not out off 23 balls) raging a lone battle in the company of a tailender to eventually fall short.
The spin twins — Ravi Bishnoi (1/17) and Axar Patel (3/16) — applied the brakes after Travis Head, who achieved legendary status post the World Cup final last month, spoilt Deepak Chahar’s return to international cricket by smoking four boundaries and a six to milk 22 runs, gave Australia a decent start.
Bishnoi drew first blood with the wicket of Josh Philippe (8) before Patel removed Head (31 off 16 balls) to reduce the Kangaroos to 44 for 2. New man Aaron Hardie (8) didn’t last long either with Axar striking again in his second over.
Australia began to buckle under pressure as the asking rate started to mount with the visitors crawling to 76 for 3 midway into their innings. And just when the new pair of Tim David (19) and Ben Mcdermott got their eyes in, Patel further dented the Aussies by castling McDermott’s off stick.
Chahar came back for a second stint to pack back David, and then Matthew Short (22 off 19) and end his spell with two wickets, even as Mukesh Kumar erred in line to allow Wade get off with a huge six, and keep them alive in the series.
Earlier, India lost a heap of wickets in a span of 13 runs after Yashasvi Jaiswal provided the hosts with yet another flying start before departing on the final ball of the powerplay with the team racing away to 50. Jaiswal slammed a 28-ball 37, laced with six boundaries and a six, to set the tone before falling to Aaron Hardie.
Shreyas Iyer, who returned as the vice-captain for the final two T20Is, walked into the Playing XI straightway, but departed for a single digit score after failing to clear long-on and in no time, India were tottering at 63 for 3, as skipper Suryakumar Yadav (1) walked back after nicking one behind.
Fresh from a century in Guwahati, opener Ruturaj Gaikwad was once again expected to resurrect the Indian innings, with Rinku Singh (46 off 29 balls) in company. Gaikwad, who till now was content playing the second fiddle, decided to switch gears and succeeded for a while as the left-right combo produced 48 runs for the fourth wicket to help India get past the three-figure mark, before the Maharashtra right-hander fell to leg-spinner Tanveer Sangha in his attempt to go aerial on consecutive occasions. Gaikwad departed after scoring a 28-ball 32, containing three fours and a six.
At the other end, Rinku did not let the pressure of rebuilding the innings get into him, and focused on playing his natural game, launching Matthew Short for a six even as new man Jitesh Sharma announced his arrival by dispatching off-spinner Chris Green to the cleaners twice in a span of three deliveries to spoil his debut. And just when Rinku and Jitesh looked set to launch the fireworks with their fifth wicket stand flourishing to 56 runs, the visitors clawed back into the game with the wicket of the right-hander, departing for a 19-ball 35, laced with a boundary and three sixes.
Axar Patel soon departed for a duck, before Rinku fell four shy of a half century, but ensured that the bowlers got a defendable score.
Earlier, both teams made wholesale changes to the playing XI with India resting the likes of Ishan Kishan, Prasidh Krishna, Arshdeep Singh and Tilak Varma to bring in Iyer, Jitesh Sharma, Mukesh Kumar and Deepak Chahar. Australia, meanwhile, came up with five changes, mostly because the likes of Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Adam Zampa and Marcus Stoinis flew back home after being part of the World Cup-winning side. Ben Dwarshuis, Chris Green, Ben McDermott, Matthew Short and Josh Phillips got an opportunity to help Australia level the series.