With no result possible in the fourth ODI, the teams will now travel to Cuttack, another city that has seen plenty of rain in the past few days, with the series still 2-1 in Australia’s favour.
India was 27 without loss in 4.1 overs on Wednesday (October 23) after Australia had put up 295 for 8, when a steady drizzle at the JSCA International Stadium forced players off the field. A similar interruption had occurred in Australia’s innings, but while that one quickly abated, this time the elements gathered force and the rain turned unrelenting. An hour and 40 minutes after it started, the rain stopped shortly before 8 pm, but an umpire-inspection at 8.35 pm determined that no play would be possible.
Given that dew is always a factor in this part of India, especially in the second innings of day-night matches and the pitch didn’t have as much in it for the faster men as the surface in Mohali had in the third ODI, India would have fancied its chances of a series-levelling win.
Before the rain came down, the spectators were treated to superb batting by the Australian captain George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell, while Mohammad Shami gave them reason to cheer with early wickets.
Bailey (98 off 94) delivered yet another master class in leading from the front, while Maxwell (92 off 77) underscored his growing reputation with an innings of counter-attacking punch. Shami (3 for 42 in eight overs) showed that bringing him into the playing XI was a sound move as Australia was restricted to its first sub-300 total of the series.
Bailey and Maxwell came together with Australia 71 for 4 in the 15th over, reeling from the pace, movement and wickets that Shami celebrated his comeback with, and put on 153 in just 136 balls in a stand marked by a small amount of luck and large amounts of audacious strokeplay. Both batsmen benefitted from dropped chances, but both also made the most of them and treated the crowd at the JSCA International Stadium at Ranchi to some high-quality batting under pressure.
That Australia found itself under pressure at all was down to Shami’s opening spell of 6-1-21-3, in which he accounted for Aaron Finch, Phil Hughes and Shane Watson, giving India the novel experience of being in control at the start of Australia’s innings. Shami was drafted into the XI along with Jaydev Unadkat as Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were left out.
Bowling with verve and cunning, Shami was on target from the start, and gained good movement off the pitch, particularly with the ball that came in to the right-hander. Finch and Watson were bowled through the gate, while Hughes, the left-hand batsman, could only edge a rising back-of-the-length delivery that moved the same way, reducing Australia to 32 for 3 in eight overs. That the wickets column read three rather than four for both Australia and Shami was down to Virat Kohli spilling an edge off the first ball Bailey faced, a mistake that cost India dear.
Australia’s batting depth came to its rescue through Bailey and Maxwell’s fifth-wicket stand and not only prevented a total collapse, but allowed it to post a good total. Bailey survived another chance on 35 when R Ashwin shelled a slog-sweep at midwicket off R Vinay Kumar, while Maxwell benefitted from a tougher chance – Yuvraj Singh unable to hold on while diving to his left to reprieve him on 44 off Unadkat.
Neither allowed the missed chances to play on their minds, and if they found a ball they could put away, they did it without hesitation. Maxwell’s shot-making was more daring, including successive reverse-sweeps off Ashwin that went for six and four, while Bailey was equally at ease off the front foot and the back, no bowler troubling him for any extended period.
None of them, however, could break Australia’s century drought in the series, both falling to Vinay in the 90s. Brad Haddin didn’t have a very happy 36th birthday, and was out cheaply. After the recovery, Australia was again in trouble at 238 for 7 after 40 overs.
Dhoni then pulled out one of his rabbits-out-of-hat tricks, the last 10 overs bowled almost exclusively by Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja. The thinking, presumably, was to deny Mitchell Johnson and James Faulkner any pace on the ball, and it worked well too, though Johnson did hit a monstrous six off Jadeja immediately after Raina had put down a skier at mid-on, to complete a very average catching day for the Indians.
Ashwin and Shami came back for the final two overs, and Australia could manage only 57 in the last 10.
Shami’s early strikes and the control India exercised on either side of the Bailey-Maxwell stand was then complemented by Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma stroking the ball sweetly in the few overs that were possible, setting India up for a good chase.
However, the weather gods had other ideas.