Hemant Brar in Cricinfo, 17 March 2022 ... where the title reads “Rahul, Jadeja stay cool to seal tough chase of 189”
India 191 for 5 in 39.5 overs (Rahul 75*, Jadeja 45*, Starc 3-49) beat Australia 188 (Marsh 81, Shami 3-17, Siraj 3-29) by five wickets
KL Rahul might have had trouble in Test cricket of late, but he once again proved his worth as an ace No. 5 batter in ODIs with a high-quality half-century in tough batting conditions to give India the series lead in Mumbai.
Chasing 189 on a seamer-friendly surface at the Wankhede Stadium, India were reduced to 16 for 3 and then 39 for 4 during a near-unplayable spell of fast, swing bowling from Mitchell Starc. It soon became 83 for 5, before Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja soaked up the pressure during their unbroken stand of 108 to finish the chase in the 40th over. Rahul was unbeaten on 75 off 91, and Jadeja 45 off 69, as India extended their winning streak in ODIs to eight games and ended Australia’s run on six matches.
Before the Australian quicks tested the Indian batters, Mohammed Shami had triggered a startling collapse. He took three wickets in 14 deliveries and conceded no runs during a three-over spell with a slightly old ball. Despite Mitchell Marsh smashing 81 off 65 balls at the top of the order, Australia crashed from 129 for 2 in the 20th over to 188 all out in the 36th.
In the afternoon Hardik Pandya, standing in as captain for Rohit Sharma who had family commitments, had asked Australia to bat in the Mumbai heat. Despite missing David Warner (elbow injury) and Alex Carey (unwell), the visitors had a long batting line-up with Marcus Stoinis at No. 8, followed by Sean Abbott and Starc.
Mohammed Siraj landed the first punch in the second over of the innings. After getting beaten on outside edge twice and cramped for room as well, Travis Head gave Siraj the charge and played on to his stumps.
Both Shami and Siraj found movement in the air and off the pitch but struggled with their lines, straying on to the pads and also down leg side. Rahul, who kept wicket even though Ishan Kishan was in the XI, was impressive behind the stumps, diving full length to his left for one-handed takes on a couple of occasions.
While Marsh and Steven Smith did not middle every ball and were beaten a few times, they found the boundary with high frequency. In the first ten overs, there were ten fours and a six. Hardik cut short Smith’s innings on 22; a leaping Rahul catching an attempted cut with both hands.
Marsh looked imperious. Returning from ankle surgery and playing this series as a specialist batter, he reached 50 off 51 balls and then decided to go even harder. He had brought up the milestone with a four off Kuldeep Yadav and celebrated it with another boundary next ball. He then deposited Jadeja beyond long-on before dishing out more punishment to Kuldeep, hitting him for a four and six off successive balls.
Marsh hit Jadeja for another boundary before miscuing the next one to short third. Three overs later, Jadeja held on to an excellent catch, diving to his right from a squarish short third to dismiss Labuschagne.
Those two wickets reduced the run flow but it was Shami who changed the complexion of the game. Having bowled just three overs with the new ball, he returned in the 28th over and still got the ball to move around. And he swung the game in India’s favour by bowling a Test-match line and length.
The third delivery of Shami’s spell disappeared for a six over midwicket, but he beat Josh Inglis next ball. India even wasted a review, thinking Inglis was caught behind. Shami eventually got his man in that over, when Inglis chased a wide ball with minimal footwork and chopped onto his stumps.
Shami’s next two overs were wicket maidens. Cameron Green was the next to fall; Shami pinging the top of off stump with a ball that moved away just enough to beat the outside edge of the forward defence.
He could have had Stonis immediately too, but Shubman Gill spilled a chance at first slip. He had earlier dropped Green as well off Kuldeep – a much tougher chance, low to the right at first slip. Gill, however, made amends by plucking one to his left in Shami’s next over to get rid of Stoinis.
Soon after, Jadeja had Glenn Maxwell caught at short midwicket and Siraj picked up two wickets without conceding a run off his last ten balls to wrap up Australia’s innings.
If anyone thought India’s chase of 189 would be easy, they were in for a shock. Stoinis struck the first blow in the second over, trapping Ishan Kishan lbw to prolong his run of poor scores. From the other end, Starc showed just why he is such a force in the ODI format, swinging the ball in both directions at searing pace to rip out three wickets. Virat Kohli played around an inswinger and was lbw. Suryakumar Yadav was beaten by pace and trapped in front as well.
Gill seemed to be living a charmed life. He was dropped on 2 by Josh Inglis off Starc, and a couple of outside edges went past second slip. Gill kept playing on-the-up shots, and one of those off Starc was caught by Labuschagne at backward point.
Only when Hardik joined Rahul in the middle did India get some stability; they added 44 runs for the fifth wicket before Hardik was caught at deep square leg.
Australia seemed to have the upper hand at that point, but Rahul and Jadeja denied them. With the asking rate never an issue, the two could afford to take their time. Scoring mainly in singles, they took India to 150 in the 35th over. Rahul then hit Adam Zampa for a four and six in one over that also featured four wides. A few moments later, Jadeja hit Starc for two fours in three balls to seal the game.
It was yet another perfect comeback for Jadeja since his knee surgery. He was the Player of the Match in the first Test in Indore; and now in his first white-ball game since August 2022, his all-round show – two wickets, a catch, and an unbeaten 45 – earned him yet another Player-of-the-Match award.
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo