Maxwell trumps Gaikwad to help Australia save series in last-ball thriller

The equation came down to 2 off the last ball, as the crowd got into a shell, and Maxwell silenced them with a straight four to help Australia walk away with a 5-wicket win.

Maxwell trumps Gaikwad to help Australia save series in last-ball thriller

The last time the Indian cricket team was in action in the city, it ended in a dull wash-out immediately after the toss in the World Cup warm-up fixture against England in September.

And now, exactly 10 days after the marque tournament ended in a heartbreak for the home fans and Australia lifted a record sixth title, the city sprung back into cricketing frenzy when Suryakumar Yadav walked into the middle, leading a second-string team, sans the superstars.

But hold on…jerseys bearing the No.18 (Virat Kohli) and No.45 (Rohit Sharma) sold like hotcakes outside the Barsapara Cricket Stadium, here.


The absence of the regulars, however, didn’t impact the turnout, as the 38,000-capacity stadium was filled to the capacity, by the time the Australian skipper Matthew Wade invited the home side to bat without worrying about the dew that was visible right from the start of the contest.

With the hosts already 2-0 up in the five-match series, and anticipating another high-scoring affair on the sluggish track, a huge roar from the stands welcomed the Indian openers Ruturaj Gaikwad (123 not out off 57 balls) and Yashasvi Jaiswal (6) into the middle, but the joy lasted for only a couple of overs as the latter fell after nicking one back off Jason Behrendorff.

Gaikwad, though lived up to the billing, and made his final appearance as the vice-captain (before Shreyas Iyer returns to take up the role in the final two T20Is) with a cracking century off 52 balls, his first in T20 Internationals, to propel India to another mammoth score of 222 for 3.

Australia’s chase began with a 47-run stand between the new opening pair of Aaron Hardie (16) and World Cup final hero Travis Head (35 off 18), but was soon reduced to 68 for 3, with both the openers back in the hut along with Josh Inglis (10), unable to read a pacy slider from leggie Ravi Bishnoi crashing into his middle stump. Hardie was the first to depart after nicking one behind off Arshdeep Singh, while Head departed after mistiming his pull off Avesh Khan for Bishnoi to complete the catch at square leg.

The mini collapse brought together the experienced pair of Glenn Maxwell (104 not out off 48 balls) and Marcus Stoinis, and the duo succeeded in repairing the innings with a 60-run stand for the fourth wicket. While Maxwell looked in fine control of the proceedings, Stoinis struggled for his runs, and ended up throwing his wicket after scoring a lazy 21-ball 17. New man Tim David also departed for a duck, leaving Maxwell and skipper Wade (28 not out off 16) to deal with the mounting asking rate.

Maxwell soon warned the crowd against early celebrations by unleashing a reverse lap over short third for a six off Arshdeep to bring up a 28-ball fifty, before dispatching Avesh for another six over deep backward square to bring the equation further down. He then silenced the crowd with two more sixes off Arshdeep, before Wade got into his groove, milking Axar Patel for 22 runs off the 19th over, to leave Australia needing 21 off the final over.

With India penalised for being behind the over rate and only four fielders allowed in the deep, Wade got the license to open his arms for a boundary off the first ball before Maxwell blazed into the 90s with a six over cover and then slammed two consecutive boundaries to bring up his hundred off 47 balls.

The equation came down to 2 off the last ball, as the crowd got into a shell, and Maxwell silenced them with a straight four to help Australia walk away with a 5-wicket win, and more importantly save themselves from a series loss, for now.

Earlier, Ishan Kishan, fresh from two consecutive half centuries, also perished for a duck, and his long walk back to the dug out resulted in pin-drop silence, before skipper Yadav shouldered the responsibility of rebuilding the innings in the company of Gaikwad.

Gaikwad, like in the previous game in Thiruvananthapuram, went about with his role of holding one end but at the same time ensured that the scoreboard kept ticking, as Yadav warmed himself up with a couple of sixes off Nathan Ellis before dealing in boundaries to bring up the 50-run partnership for the third wicket in quick time. With India reaching 80 for 2 midway into the innings, a settled Yadav perished in his attempt to accelerate, caught behind by Wade off Aaron Hardie after scoring a 29-ball 39, laced with five boundaries and two sixes.

The fall of Yadav once again got the left-right combination back into the middle with Tilak Varma (31 not out) getting the perfect platform to get his first notable score of the series. The southpaw didn’t disappoint and played the perfect second fiddle to Gaikwad, who went about business as usual picking his fourth T20I half century with a boundary off Hardie and played his part in the fourth wicket stand that flourished to fifty runs when Varma clubbed Hardie to the deep square leg fence.

The best was saved for the last as the crowd rejoiced the onslaught launched by the duo in the final five, especially in the 18th when Gaikwad clobbered Hardie for three sixes and a four to milk 25 runs to storm into the 90’s. While the 19th over produced 12 runs and completed the 100-run partnership between the two, all eyes were on Gaikwad, who eventually got to the landmark on the first ball of the final over by dispatching Glenn Maxwell over wide long on.

And there was no stopping the Maharashtra right-hander as he sent Maxwell to the cleaners for two more sixes and a couple of boundaries to milk 30 runs from the 20th over that propelled India to 222 for 3. And as the duo walked off after producing an undefeated fourth-wicket partnership of 141 runs, the Barsapara Stadium celebrated with a laser show enthralling the crowd during the break.