Rohit scored a magical 209 off 158-balls on Saturday (November 2). Rohit’s wondrous essay, dotted with 12 fours and 16 sixes – the most ever in an ODI – was all about grace, elegance, timing and extraordinary skill, the ball not so much battered and pummeled as coaxed and cajoled way over the boundary ropes across various parts of the ground.
India motored to a gargantuan 383 for 6, by some distance the highest score of the series, but on a very good batting strip, a fast outfield, shorter boundaries and Bengaluru’s elevation that makes the ball travel faster and longer, India could not take anything for granted, not after what has transpired in this series earlier.
James Faulkner decided to pay India back in the same coin, conjuring a memorable maiden ODI hundred off just 57 deliveries and putting on 115 for the ninth wicket with Clint McKay when all seemed lost. Faulkner’s effort, the fastest ODI ton by an Australian, kept his team in the hunt until the very end when he was well caught by Shikhar Dhawan in the deep off Mohammad Shami for a sparkling 116, signalling the end of the Australian resistance at 326. Ironically enough, Shami had kept the game alive by putting down Faulkner off R Ashwin when the batsman was only 20, with the total on 209 for 7.
The 57-run win, earned after several palpitations, gave India a 3-2 series triumph, the first time since 1986-87 that it had defeated Australia at home in a bilateral series where more than one game was played.
Australia had slumped to 138 for 6 despite a sensational blitzkrieg from Glenn Maxwell, and Shane Watson and Faulkner tonked the bowling around with casual arrogance, particularly against R Vinay Kumar, who became the first Indian to concede 100-plus in an ODI. Faulkner, who had hauled Australia to victory in Mohali, threatened an encore with crisp, clean, powerful striking, sending shivers among the fans and triggering a few tense moments within the Indian camp before victory was finally sealed.
After the mauling in the previous game in Nagpur on October 30 when India chased down 351 to level the series, George Bailey had hoped to hit it lucky with the coin in the final match. The Australian captain’s prayers were answered when he called right, but the script didn’t quite go to plan as Rohit sent Australia on a hiding to nothing, with one of the more spectacular innings in international cricket. If Australia hadn’t been at the receiving end, they would have gladly joined the rest of the audience in soaking in the entertainment.
Rohit became the third batsman in ODI history, after Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, to score a double hundred, doing so with an effortlessness and an elegance that would have made his two illustrious predecessors proud. For his first 50 runs, Rohit was content to play second fiddle to Dhawan, who seemingly cannot put a foot wrong these days. The duo brought up their third century stand of the series to lay the perfect base for the middle order to build on.
Rohit was culpable of running out Virat Kohli, Bengaluru’s adopted son and the most outstanding batsman of the series before now, for nought, an event that hardly endeared him to the holiday crowd. Once he set stall, though, he turned the fans around with a most silken display of spectacular batsmanship, making Australia pay the ultimate penalty for putting him down when on 120, substitute Moises Henriques the culprit at the deep backward square leg.
The fact that he battled through difficult periods and put his part in Kohli’s run out for zero behind him spoke volumes of his growing maturity. India looked to have sold themselves short with Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh failing to shrug off their recent lean trots, but Rohit and Mahendra Singh Dhoni first stabilised the innings and then provided the final push, adding 167 in just 94 deliveries with Dhoni, astonishingly, the more passive partner.
Rohit’s was a measured approach at the start, an approach that he has decided is the way to go at the top of the innings. He took 114 deliveries for his first 100, but then charged from 100 to 200 in just 42 more balls with eight further fours and nine more sixes. His tally of 16 sixes put to shade Shane Watson’s record of 15 against Bangladesh in 2011.
Rohit occasionally came out of his slumber to smash a six during his stand with Dhawan, but it wasn’t until later that he really sprang to life. That he was in the mood for hitting sixes became apparent when he moved from 52 in 72 deliveries to 85 in 87 with five giant sixes off Maxwell and Xavier Doherty in four overs, this after a 28-minute rain delay.
The Power Play overs between 36 and 40 produced only 22; it seemed as if Rohit felt it was insulting for him to require fielding restrictions to score quickly. Overs 41 through 50, though, he produced a scarcely believable 151, the last five alone bringing 100 to leave Australia shell-shocked and the large crowd with sore throats and soaring hearts even as for once, Dhoni was relegated to a side show despite making a 35-ball fifty.
Australia was rocked in the second over when Shami beat Aaron Finch for pace and trapped him in front. With Watson having limped off the park with a hamstring injury earlier and not batting till No. 8, Australia pushed up Brad Haddin but Ashwin – who was the pick of the bowlers with a brilliant display all the way through – bowled an excellent first spell, accounting for both Haddin and Phil Hughes. Bailey, easily Australia’s batting hero with 474 runs coming into this game, was guilty of inexplicable ball watching and wondering if his partner would make his ground, and was caught short by Vinay’s presence of mind as he quickly fired the ball into Dhoni’s gloves.
That was about the only thing that went right for Vinay, who was clobbered by Maxwell and Watson with utter disdain. Maxwell teed off with a first-ball six off Ashwin, then just lay into Vinay with two fours and two sixes in an over, narrowly missing the fastest ODI half-century. It was, however, always on the cards that with so much required and so few resources left, he would perish trying one stroke too many, Vinay finding some consolation when Ravindra Jadeja took a top-edged pull.
Watson, somewhat hampered in his movements, decided there was no point doing his hammy further, again picking on Vinay and depositing him over the midwicket and long-on ropes thrice in as many deliveries.
The numbers for Saturday were completely in keeping with the trend witnessed throughout the series – 709 runs in 95.1 overs, 59 fours, 38 sixes.