When you think of Twenty/20 internationals, you think of India as one of the best teams, perhaps alongside Pakistan and West Indies, and you think of Australia as being pretty bad. Australia have long had a policy not to treat T20s seriously, whether they are internationals or domestic matches. Ricky Ponting, man of the match in the first ever T20 international, against New Zealand in 2005, said that T20s are hits and giggles.
Fast forward to 2018 and the situation hasn’t changed a whole lot. India are ranked 2nd in the world, complete with having won 7 T20 international series in a row, while Australia had somehow achieved a ranking of 4th, but few took it seriously. India plays well away from home in the T20 international format and, with Australia missing probably their third best T20 batsman in David Warner and another good one in Steve Smith, as well as resting all 4 of the test bowlers from the series, a 3-0 result in favour of India looked inevitable.
The first T20 international was in Brisbane on the 21st of November, a match which controversially wasn’t shown live on free to air TV in Australia, the first time ever that a home international series would not be available for Australian citizens for free, with it being exclusive to pay television, through either Austar or Foxtel, depending on where in the country you live. This was part of the pay deal that the Australian players fought so hard for, and the Australian public was very angry about this. Many Australians refused to watch it, assuming they’d lose anyway, and thinking of Australian cricketers as cheaters after the ball-tampering incident from March, which upset Australia’s own supporters more than anyone else.
The first over, bowled by India’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar, had five dot balls in a row, with just a sneaky single off the final delivery. The second over had just four runs and it looked like India were going to win. Then in the 4th over Finch was dropped by Virat Kohli, and it was the sort of drop that would have made the most of India’s early dominance, but instead it gave Finch, and Australia, a chance.
Even though Short was out the next over, the momentum was still heading towards Australia, and when Chris Lynn let loose in the 8th over, bowled by Khaleel Ahmed, hitting him for three 6s, 21 runs off the over, the momentum shifted even further, and perhaps, just perhaps, Australia were ahead.
The momentum kept turning Australia’s way and then, in the 14th over, bowled by all-rounder Krural Pandya, Glenn Maxwell smashed three more 6s, in a row, for 23 runs off the over, and suddenly it was all Australia.
After 15 overs, Australia had 3/135, a run rate of 9.00 per over and were aiming for 200, perhaps even 220 with a bit of luck, and, after Stoinis and Maxwell each hit 6s in the 16th over, it was looking more like 220 than 200.
Then, after 16.1 overs, rain came. Stoinis had just been dropped, and rain came and came and came. Perhaps unfairly to Australia, they had to come back for five deliveries, which made it hard to get back into the rhythm, and, instead of getting 220, Australia managed just 5 runs off 5 balls, starting with Maxwell getting out the next ball after the rain delay. Australia went from a run rate of 9.50 after 16 overs to a run rate of 9.29 after 17 overs.
The Duckworth/Lewis rain reduction method, a method so complicated that only the most advanced statisticians can understand it, decided, in its infinite wisdom, that India should have to score 174 off 17 overs, even though Australia had only scored 158, taking into account that, if not for rain, Australia probably would have scored between 200 and 220, and 174 off 17 overs is just as hard to get.
India, for their part, were well and truly on track to win the match. For the first four overs, India scored 35 runs, but then Rohit Sharma was out after he tried to take on the bowler only to be outdone by great fielding by Aaron Finch, sadly out off the wrong shot, due to bad batting and good fielding more than good bowling, and it was at just the wrong time for India.
India were back on track with 17 runs off the 9th over to Shikhir Dhawan as he went past his half century but then, just as it was looking like India would win, KL Rahul was stumped off Zampa then Virat Kohli of all people had a rare failure, out for 4 off 8 balls, and suddenly it was Dhawan or bust, one player and one chance to win the match.
Then Karthik and Pant were India’s last hope. 13 overs in and the run rate required was 15 per over and it looked over, but then Andrew Tye conceded 25 off an over, with Pant hitting a 6 and a 4 and Karthik hitting a 4 and a 6, and suddenly India needed 35 off 3 overs. Then it was 24 off 2 overs and, with 6 wickets in hand, India looked like they’d win. Pant was out in the penultimate over but with 11 runs scored they just needed 13 off the last over, bowled by all-rounder Marcus Stoinis with still 5 wickets in hand and India were favourites.
Last over. Pandya on strike. 2 runs. Should he have just got a single? No, he’s trying to do it himself. 11 off 5. Dot ball. Beaten. 11 off 4. Goes for the big one but doesn’t quite connect. Looks like it will just land safely and it probably would have except that’s Maxwell there, Australia’s best fieldsman, who dives, slides, and takes it just off the ground. Out. But they’ve crossed. Karthik on strike. 11 off 3. That’s three 4s or two 6s. Goes for the 6. Gone! Two wickets in two balls! 11 off 2. Crazy stuff. India are gone. But then there’s a wide. 10 off 2. Wow. Maybe they can do it in wides. 1 run. 9 off 1. It’s all over. Nobody cares about the final delivery but they have to bowl it. Gets a 4 and nobody cares. Australia win by 4 runs!
A lot of people complained that India scored 11 more runs but lost by 4 runs, but Australia lost all of their momentum and their run rate was 9.50 before the rain came so 200 was the likely minimum score had there not been rain, with 220 still very much possible with 7 wickets in hand and well-set big-hitting batsmen there.
The second T20 international, held in Melbourne, started off even worse for Australia, and even better for India, as Aaron Finch edged one behind off the first ball he faced – and second ball of the match. After Lynn, Short and Stoinis were out in the 4th, 6th and 7th overs respectively, Australia were in real trouble of being bowled out, as they struggled to 4/41 off 7 overs. While McDermott and Maxwell helped with some semblance of a recovery, Maxwell’s dismissal, clean bowled by Krunal Pandya for 19, at the end of the 11th over, left Australia precariously poised at 5/62 off 11 overs, still at a run rate of just 5.63 and with no batsmen to come.
When Kuldeep Yadav had Alex Carey out for just 4, Australia were 6/74 at the start of the 14th over, and India were looking at chasing a score of just 100 or so.
Number 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, who is out of form with the ball, showed why it is good to have someone who can bat that low down the order as he smashed a 4 and two 6s on his way to 18 off 9 that saw Australia get past 100, and a run rate above 6, before he was caught by substitute Manish Pandey on the boundary going for one big hit too many.
Then Khaleel Ahmed had a shocker of an 18th over, as number 9 Andrew Tye hit two 4s in a row and then Ben McDermott, the son of former Australian fast bowler Craig McDermott, smashed a 6 to finish the over and suddenly Australia had scored 19 runs in an over and, at 7/122, were a chance of a decent score.
The 19th over saw 10 more runs added, and suddenly Australia were 7/132 and were expecting to get 140 and hoping to get 150 before rain came. With 160 an average score in Australia, India were favourites but not by much.
But the rain cost us a good contest. It would have been an interesting chase, especially as Australia had come back so well from their disastrous start, but we never got to see it as rain cost us the satisfaction.
Australia, and rain, had cost India their 8th T20 international series win in a row, but there was still a chance of a match win and a series draw, and as they headed into the 3rd T20 international in Sydney both teams had all to play for.
Australia brought Mitchell Starc back in, one of the four test bowlers, something they said they wouldn’t do, but curiously left Jason Behrendorff out – curious, as most were expecting Nathan Coulter-Nile to be left out, but perhaps Australia’s selectors liked Coulter-Nile’s late order hitting, even if his bowling wasn’t all that good.
Australia started off steadily, scoring an average of 8 runs per over for the first 8 overs, and, at 0/64 off 8 overs, Australia were looking like favourites to go big and get perhaps 200, which could perhaps set up a big win.
But, right when India needed him, Kuldeep Yadav extracted Aaron Finch’s wicket and then, off the last ball of his over, he had Glenn Maxwell trapped in front. Maxwell reviewed and, in defiance of the naked eye, it was overturned, as DRS showed it to be missing.India were annoyed but in came Krunal Pandya to make amends by having Short trapped LBW too, who promptly reviewed and wasted it as it was shown to be hitting the stumps and he was out! Suddenly Australia had been given out 3 times in an over, and, even with that one reprieve, it was trouble.
Then, next ball, boom, Ben McDermott out LBW – 3 LBWs given in 3 balls. Wow. Krunal on a hat-trick. Carey was good enough to hit it and hat-trick missed but it felt like the job was won. India went from a losing position to a winning position in the space of 6 balls as 0/68 turned into 3/73.
Australia tried to rebuild but their run rate dipped during a time when it is supposed to lift, and when Krunal had Maxwell out for 13 off 16 balls, it was 4/90 in the 14th over and the run rate had dropped below 7 per over, with India well on top.
Enter Chris Lynn, sometimes an opener, sometimes a number 3, and today a number 6, and just what Australia needed. Australian captain Aaron Finch, showing that he can manipulate a batting order as well as he can manipulate a bowling order or fielding placements, had picked the perfect time to move Lynn down the order, and suddenly it was game on.Two 4s to Alex Carey in the 16th over, bowled by Krunal Pandya, seemed to change things to Australia, but then Krunal had the last laugh as Carey was out going for a 6, but this time caught by Virat Kohli on the boundary and Krunal had taken 4 wickets, the best ever bowling figures by a finger spinner at Sydney in T20 international history!
Stoinis comes in and gets Lynn run out in a very silly fashion, which was all Stoinis’s fault, as he called for a single then changed his mind, and the in-form well-set batsman Lynn was out just when Australia didn’t need it.
But Coulter-Nile looked for all the world like a proper batsman as Australia added 12 and 15 off the last two overs to get to 164, a competitive score and it wasn’t sure who would win.It was a funny innings that went up and down with who was winning and nobody was quite sure who was going to win. India maybe just had the momentum but it wasn’t by much.
Australia opened the bowling with Starc and, oddly, Coulter-Nile, and were punished for it with Coulter-Nile’s second over carted for 20 runs, including a 6 to Rohit Sharma, another 6 to Dhawan, as well as a 4. It was bad bowling and bad captaincy to have an out of form bowler open the bowling, a rare mistake by Aaron Finch.At 0/40 off 4 overs, India were well on top but Australia had started well too so it wasn’t over quite yet.
Marcus Stoinis came in, and India smashed him for 22, with another 6 to Rohit Sharma then 644 to Dhawan and, at 0/62 off 5 overs, India only needed a run rate of 6.86 to win the match, which it seemed sure they would do.Starc was brought in for a 3rd over, to try to break the bad bowling pattern, and it worked, with Dhawan caught in front. The umpire didn’t give it but it was overturned on review and Dhawan was out.
The problem for Australia was two bowlers who had stunk so Finch introduced Adam Zampa with immediate success as Rohit Sharma had an unlucky inside edge onto the stumps and the match was starting to turn Australia’s way.
Coulter-Nile was given a 3rd over, was hit for another 6, this time by KL Rahul, as he conceded 11 runs and Australia needed to find a 6th bowler.
Enter Glenn Maxwell, who bowled tidily to concede just 3 runs but didn’t look like taking a wicket, and India needed 84 off 11 overs, which was still an easy 7.63.Tidy bowling from Maxwell and Zampa slowed down the scoring rate but India didn’t care as no wickets fell but then right as India least needed it KL Rahul gave his wicket away off Maxwell, gone for 14 off 20 going for a 6, and India were 3/108 off 13 and the run rate required was up to 8.14.
Enter Virat Kohli, batting as low as 5, a tactical ploy perhaps, as backup in case of a collapse. Enter Andrew Tye, Australia’s normal opening bowler, bowling for the first time in the 14th over, perhaps as a way to combat Kohli.It was a game of captaincy in many ways, a game within a game, and the match was evenly poised. Kohli had been out of form in T20 internationals – but in great form in tests – and if he was out cheaply then surely that’s it.
First ball, knuckle ball, Tye has a wicket – but it’s Pant. Last recognised batsman, Karthik, comes in. Hearts are beating. This could go either way. Australia were perhaps just in front, but with Kohli there it wasn’t sure. India could yet snatch this one.1 run off the over. 4 runs off the next. Suddenly India need 52 off 5 overs – a required run rate of 10.40. Australia should win. But Kohli is still there so you never know.Kohli smashes a 4, then a 6, and his eyes light up. You can see it in his eyes as he shifts up a gear. Any hint of bad form is gone. He is going to win it.
Tye, who looked so good in his first over, concedes 12 in his second and probably should be taken off but, with Coulter-Nile and Stoinis bowling so badly, he can’t.Maxwell comes back, having conceded 12 runs off his first 3 overs, Kohli doesn’t care and hits him for 6, and Maxwell concedes 13. 27 off 3 overs seems like India will win. They’ve just got 25 off 2.
Tye has to bowl. First four balls only concede 5 runs. Then Karthik leans back and smashes it. It’s high in the air so high that surely it’s going to be caught but instead it goes into the crowd – in the second tier! It’s huge! And, with that triumphant shot, India have won, surely.16 off 2 overs. This is easy now.
Mitchell Starc is bowling now, a man whose T20 bowling form is some of the best in the world, the man who started this chance with the first wicket. Come on. You can do it Starky.2 runs, leg bye – FOUR! Karthik smashes him with confidence. We’re not even into the last over but the match seems over. 11 runs off the over. 5 required. This is so easy.
Andrew Tye bowls the last over. He is looking tired. He should have been taken off after 2. His first over was good but he took too long to bowl. What a captaincy blunder.
Dot ball. Swing and a miss. Only 5 off 5 required. Dot ball but looks like a wide. Not called. 5 off 4. Kohli looks annoyed. Surely India can’t stuff this up. A wicket would make it interesting. But not today. Kohli smashes it to the boundary. Scores are level with 3 balls to go. Easy. Next ball doesn’t matter too much. Kohli hits it past the infield and India have won! It reached the boundary but that is secondary!
It was oh so close but it is a 1-1 drawn series, and a very close one.
What everyone thought would be an easy 3-0 series win to India instead was 1-1, with every match close, but rain ruining the second. Perhaps that would have made it 2-1 to India, but perhaps Australia would have fought back and won it. We will never know.
A great series when nobody was expecting it to be. A series that nobody in Australia wanted to watch – and few could watch – but one that suddenly inspired interest in the Australian team, and we can now look forward to the ODI and test series to come, which will hopefully be just as close and hard-fought.
Article by – ARDIAN MEREDITH