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So we've castigated the Aussies for not showing up and not being their true selves very often, this series. But there have been moments on this tour when they've come out fully fueled to give an account of what they're actually capable of. They chose their venues to do this and although they have been picky, Bengaluru and Tuesday's T20I at Guwahati were instances when they played some wonderful cricket. On Tuesday, they strolled to an 8 wicket victory on the back of incredible batting displays from Travis Head and Moises Henriques. They withstood early pressure and made the most of getting used to the surface. You'd agree when we say that Australia commanded the game first with the ball and then with the bat in hand.
The Barsapara Stadium became the 49th venue in India to host an International game. In many ways, this was Australia's home away from home. Guwahati's a relatively sedate city sans the hustle & bustle what they've usually come across during the tour. A concrete stadium in the midst of a picturesque green, you can be forgiven for mistaking this ground as the MCG. Most importantly, the pitch played to the Aussies strengths. The ball was skidding onto the bat and was zipping into the keeper's gloves.
While the favoured choices of the skippers throughout the ODI series has been to set totals for the opposition, it has quickly changed to chasing totals for the shortest format primarily because the pitch won't change drastically over the course of 40 overs. David Warner won the toss and had no hesitation to send India in to bat first. Rohit Sharma got India to the perfect start smashing two fours in the first three balls of the innings. But that's exactly how long the good start lasted.
The man who made his debut at Ranchi was an unknown commodity in the Indian cricket circles. Jason Behrendorff is the only member of the touring Aussie party who hasn't ever received an IPL contract. That's definitely changing in 2018 after he ripped apart the Indian top order. He bowled an extended spell, four on the trot in fact, to dismiss Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Manish Pandey and Shikhar Dhawan. He swung the ball back into the right-handers with class and hit the deck hard with hostility, banishing all memories of the absent Mitchell Starc.
India imitated their opponents. The visitors have been guilty of batting collapses in this series but India capitulated badly. After Behrendorff finished his spell, Adam Zampa made sure that the pressure was kept on the batsmen. Dhoni was using his feet against Zampa in an attempt to put the spinner off guard and even survived a stumping. But he stepped out once too often and Zampa beat him in the turn for Tim Paine to complete the rest. In between Behrendorff's assault, Kedar Jadhav played a counter-attacking innings in which he looked to #PlayBold even when his team was struggling around him. But he misread a googly from the Aussie leg-spinner and was cleaned up. Then on, Hardik Pandya tried to provide some resistance but couldn't find support from the other end as India were knocked over for 118. Surely not competitive enough.
Finch and Warner, who Oz have relied on throughout the series, surprisingly couldn't get themselves going and both were dismissed early to give Kohli & Co., a glimmer of hope. But Travis Head and Moises Henriques made use of their IPL experience. They showed the hosts that the wicket at the Barsapara Stadium wasn't averse to batting and put on 108 runs together to guide their team over the line.
There was no Yuzvendra Chahal- Glenn Maxwell contest because Maxwell wasn't needed. It was clear that there was no slow turn on this surface which Kuldeep and Yuzi have so effectively utilized against Australia this series. The Indian spinners had a largely forgettable day on what was 'unfamiliar territory'. Virat Kohli labelled Tuesday's loss as an "off day at the office" and would surely look at the decider, in Hyderabad, to bounce back from this blip.