Manish Pandey slammed the winning runs over extra cover in the fifth One Day International in Sydney on Saturday and exulted. It had been an exceptionally brilliant knock. The Indian dressing room erupted in celebration. Relief was writ large on their faces. Finally, after four successive losses, they had a win to their name.
For a long time though, they would have had their hearts in their mouths. When Rohit Sharma edged behind on 99 and dejectedly made the long way back, it seemed like the familiar script of the last ODI was being repeated. Yet again, India had got off to a great start but looked set to throw it away. The big guns and India’s star performers, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli had all departed. Things were going downhill again.
Pandey displays his class
But that was where Pandey stepped in and played a gem (104 not out off 81 balls). In only his fourth game at the international level, Pandey displayed a sense of calm that went far beyond his inexperience. When he first arrived at the crease, he kept the runs ticking, the perfect foil to Sharma's heroics at the other end. But Sharma's dismissal did not faze him and Pandey kept the foot on the accelerator. Even during a critical phase with Dhoni at the other end and the run rate dipping fast, he ensured that that the team remained in touching distance of victory. The coup de grace was delivered in the last over, when with six runs left to get in the last over, he showed incredible presence of mind to squeeze out a low yorker on off stump to the third-man boundary and secure the victory.
This was supposed to be a series where India’s new guns would step up to be counted. It has taken till the last game in the series but finally two youngsters have provided a flicker of hope for the future. One is obviously Pandey who needs to be given a longer run in the team as he looks like the sort of batsman who can fit in to the finisher’s role, something which India has been struggling with. The other newcomer who impressed with the ball in the match was the 22-year old debutant Jasprit Bumrah.
The debutant shines
Bumrah’s journey has had an element of fate in it. He was not even in the initial ODI squad. In fact, he was only called up as a replacement for the injured Mohammad Shami for the forthcoming Twenty20 series. With the series out of contention, Mahendra Singh Dhoni probably decided to give Bumrah a game so that he would have some match practice ahead of the Twenty20 series.
The 22-year old youngster did that and more. In his first match in Indian colours, Bumrah demonstrated to his more experienced compatriots how to bowl on flat surfaces, mixing up his line and lengths wonderfully. His bowling at the death was exemplary and he finished with 2/40 in his ten overs, the best bowling performance in terms of economy rate among all bowlers who have bowled a minimum of ten overs in this ODI series.
In the bigger picture, this win means nothing – India have been comprehensively outfielded and outbowled in this five match series with the result (4-1) reflecting the same. There are still no answers to the many questions raging around the Indian team. But Pandey and Bumrah’s exceptional performances will be one of the few positive takeaways out of this series for a beleaguered Indian cricket team.
Fifth ODI result: India (331/4 in 49.4 overs) beat Australia (330/7 in 50 overs) by six wickets.