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Faulkner heroics take Australia home

Dhoni's unbeaten 139 in vain as Australia lead seven-match series 2-1
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s incredible 121-ball 139 looked good enough to give India a 2-1 lead, but James Faulkner, coming in to bat at No. 8, smashed 30 runs in the 48th over of the Australian reply off Ishant Sharma and scripted a fantastic victory in the third One-Day International, played at the PCA Stadium in Mohali, on Saturday (October 19).
Before the 48th over started, Australia needed 44 runs. By the time Faulkner had finished with his 4, 6, 6, 2, 6, 6 routine, it was game and set to Australia, the match just 14 runs away. That came up on cue when Faulkner added another six, his sixth in a rollicking unbeaten 29-ball 64, in the final over bowled by R Vinay Kumar to give Australia a four-wicket win, a win as unlikely as the total of 303 for 9 India managed to reach after being asked to bat first.
The Indian innings was all about Dhoni, who walked in when the Australians, led by Mitchell Johnson, had reduced India to 76 for 4 in 13 overs. Virat Kohli was in charge, seemingly batting against a different attack than the others. But after Kohli was dismissed in the 30th over with the total at 148 for 5, Dhoni took over. He treated the capacity crowd to 12 fours, five sixes and a lot of hectic running despite a visible limp brought on by a stumble at the start of his innings, ending unbeaten on a 121-ball 139, scoring 79 of the 101 runs in the final ten overs.
India’s innings began badly when it lost Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma early. Dhawan went for eight in the second over after being squared up by Clint McKay. Rohit fell next, when he top edged a pull off Shane Watson that Aaron Finch chased down, and India were 37 for 2 in seven overs.
Kohli, however, was masterful. He got off the mark with successive square drives for fours on either side of point off Johnson, and the drive off McKay in the tenth over, splitting short- and extra-cover, was a treat.
Things continued to go wrong at the other end though. Johnson had Suresh Raina with one directed at his head. Yuvraj Singh, the local hero, had a one-ball stay, hanging his bat out to against Johnson, the edge going to Haddin.
Kohli and Dhoni then stitched together a 72-run stand, lifting India out of the woods in the process, till Kohli nicked Glenn Maxwell to Haddin on the cut after scoring 68 in 73 balls.
Ravindra Jadeja walked in next and Johnson, bowling his third short spell, homed in on Jadeja’s throat at speed, and Jadeja’s fend was taken smartly down the leg side by Haddin.
Through all of this, Dhoni scrapped away, bringing up his fifty and taking the total past 200 by 40 overs with quite a bit of help from R Ashwin. Dhoni was well and truly in his groove by then. He got to his century in 107 balls, the first Indian to reach three figures at the venue in ODIs, and then went for the jugular. Bailey dropped a mistimed skier at cover and Dhoni, refusing singles at this stage, responded by teeing off, the coup de grace a patented helicopter shot over long on followed by a loft over long off in the final over, bowled by Faulkner, which went for 21 runs.
The Australian reply started steadily, Finch and Phil Hughes keeping things risk-free. Bhuvneshwar Kumar had a couple of lbw shouts turned down and Vinay thought he had Finch, who swung at a short one and had the catch taken by Kohli at gully. Kohli, who made his feelings amply clear, might well find an invitation to meet the match referee waiting for him. The stand lasted 68 runs before Vinay finally got the breakthrough in the 13th over.
It was an unremarkable delivery outside the off stump that Hughes only managed to send to Dhoni while attempting a steer. Ishant, bowling a fuller line and at a slightly better pace than in the recent past, then had Finch out lbw for a 44-ball 38. And Watson followed, lbw to Jadeja to one that appeared to be slipping down leg.
Like in the Indian innings, rebuilding was what the Australian innings needed and Bailey and Adam Voges set about doing that. Scoring was slow as Vinay and Jadeja kept things tight, but Australia weren’t losing wickets.
The required rate, however, was creeping up, necessitating the Batting Power Play to be taken slightly earlier than usual. The runs still didn’t come but Vinay bowled a sharp in-cutter to send back Bailey lbw after a 60-ball 43, and Dhawan followed it up with a direct hit from mid off to run Maxwell out and Australia looked down for the count.
Hope for Australia came courtesy a gift from Dhoni, who handed the ball to Kohli for the 40th over, and Haddin promptly smashed a six and two fours to make it an 18-run over. Voges was past 50 and Australia 208 for 5. Still behind but not out of it.
But everything changed, conclusively, in that 48th over, where Ishant sent down six ill-conceived and poorly executed deliveries. Australia go to Ranchi for the next game 2-1 ahead and the ghosts of the Jaipur massacre are in the past.

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