It was a repeat of the first One Day International between Australia and India as the Men in Blue went down by a mammoth margin of 51 runs in the second game at the Sydney Cricket Ground to lose the series 0-2 with a game left. Australia once again won the toss and opted to bat first and followed the exact same template as they had in the last game – a huge opening stand, followed by a quick ton from Steven Smith along with a quick cameo by Glenn Maxwell to take the team over the 370-run mark. The night also saw Virat Kohli repeat his botched pull shot from the first ODI as the Men in Blue slumped to their fifth successive ODI loss, which should cause frustration in the dressing room.
The day belonged to Smith who smashed his second successive ton. Both his last two hundreds have come in 62 balls – the third fastest by any Australian batsman in the format. Along with a 142-run stand between the openers David Warner and Aaron Finch, the Australians managed to set the visitors a target of 390 for a win in a do or die game for them.
Though the bowling by the Men in Blue was well below par, they had the tough task of bowling in the severe heat that meant the day was unusually uncomfortable. Jasprit Bumrah was a pale shadow of his former self as he ended with figures of 1 for 79, but he along with Mohammed Shami did get off to an aggressive start with the ball. While Shami started off proceedings with a bouncer to Warner, Bumrah, after he found his groove, was unplayable, but the efforts were undone with the introduction of Navdeep Saini into the attack. The Royal Challengers Bangalore bowled a number of loose deliveries yet again as the openers made hay of the easy line and lengths.
Team India have now gone five successive games without picking up a wicket in the first ten overs of an ODI, while it was the third successive hundred-plus opening stand for the Kangaroos. After the openers were dismissed in quick succession, the duo of Smith and Marcus Labuschagne increased the pressure as they piled on 136 for the third wicket, before Glenn Maxwell smashed an unbeaten 63 in no time to take the team close to the 400 run mark. Smith eventually fell to a wide ball from Hardik Pandya, who returned to bowling in the game, but the attack as a whole was so ineffective that Kohli even had to ask Mayank Agarwal to roll his arm over.
The Indian batting, though, tried to undo the mistakes with the ball as they kept the team in the hunt throughout the innings. The openers gave the Men in Blue a fiery start, scoring 50 in 6.1 overs, but both Shikhar Dhawan and Agarwal were out within a span of 8 balls, to leave India reeling at 61 for 2. Shreyas Iyer and Virat Kohli got together and put on 93 for the third wicket to get India back in the game. Though Iyer struggled against the short ball, he did well to hold one end up as skipper Kohli at the other end played a sedate yet crucial innings. Iyer eventually fell to a long hop from Moises Henriques, who replaced injured Marcus Stoinis in the XI. Kohli, who got his fifty in 53 balls, tried his best and shared a 72 run stand with KL Rahul, but was dismissed while looking to up the ante. He, however, got to 22,000 international runs in the process.
The batting pair of Rahul and Hardik Pandya did play a number of attractive shots, as the equation reduced to 72 off 27. With Mitchell Starc in poor form, the Indians would have fancied their chances with a few big overs, but the precision of Pat Cummins along with the pacey variations of Josh Hazlewood ensured that the asking run rate kept climbing. The fielding effort by the home team too was much sharper than their rival’s, with Smith taking a brilliant effort to dismiss Iyer and Henriques’ flying effort sending back Kohli just 11 runs short of his ton. In comparison, the Men in Blue were poor on the field, with even Ravindra Jadeja – their best fielder – dropping Labuschagne when he was batting on 44.
Once KL Rahul was sent back to the pavilion, it was all curtains for the Indians, even though Pandya was at the crease. The only way was to attack, attack and attack, and though the all-rounder, along with Ravindra Jadeja stitched together a quick 33 run stand in 15 balls, the asking rate of 17 was too steep. With the death bowlers impressing and not allowing India the loose deliveries, it was all too much in the end as they slumped to a 51-run loss.
India have now lost their last two ODI series, which includes a 0-3 drubbing against New Zealand in New Zealand earlier this year. The fact that none of their batters in the top six can bowl (Hardik did bowl on Sunday) hampers the balance of the side, as it leaves the bowlers with no scope for any errors. Navdeep Saini, the third seamer, was the big let down in both the ODIs, and it is likely that the Men in Blue will give Shardul Thakur or T Natarajan a chance in the last game over him.
Brief Scores: Australia 389/4 in 50 overs (Steve Smith 104, David Warner 83; Hardik Pandya 1-24, Mohammed Shami 1-73) beat India 338/9 in 50 0vers (Virat Kohli 89; Pat Cummins 3-67) by 51 runs.