India save face, avoid ODI series whitewash

After losing all four matches in a row, India on Saturday came back strong thanks to Manish Pandey’s magnificent maiden century One-day international match-winning and avoided the series whitewash with a six-wicket win over Australia in the fifth match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The visiting batsmen stood to the task having victory in sight from the ball one as David Warner and Mitch Marsh’s centuries were in vain as India ended the series on a consolation win. 

After winning the toss, and deciding to bowl first India were cruising while responding to Australia’s total of 7 for 330, thanks to 99 from Rohit Sharma.

India chased down Australia’s 7/330 with just three balls to spare, raising the question of whether Marsh’s nerves in chasing his breakthrough century cost his team victory.

Though dropped chances by Nathan Lyon and Shaun Marsh in the deep were arguably more costly.

Mitchell Marsh reached a considerable milestone by breaking through for his maiden international century only to finish the night weighed down by a millstone.

It was Marsh and David Warner’s turn to cash in with tons on the latest batsman-friendly wicket, followed later in the night by Manish Pandey, who whacked a match-winning unbeaten 102 off 80 balls in just his fourth game. They would have been joined by Rohit Sharma had he not feathered one off the wholehearted John Hastings when on 99.

Marsh absorbed precious dot balls in the final two overs while John Hastings spurned a second run to give his partner the strike.

But with the series won, it’s arguable Marsh’s century was worth more than victory. Few will remember the result but the impact the milestone could have on Marsh’s career is considerable.

The innings could be the making of the all-rounder, whose international record to date is moderate but his potential immense.

Sure this was a flat track but few would begrudge Marsh his achievement for he has suffered a severe dose of pad rash so long has he been waiting in the sheds for a chance to bat.

Australia was in a sticky situation when Marsh joined Warner at the crease but the pair ensured a big run chase by adding 118 for the fifth wicket at the SCG.

Both men were comfortable until they hit the 90s. Warner started to pick out fielders, taking 17 balls to move from 90 to 100. Marsh, so fluent for much of his innings, was suddenly racked with nerves.

India’s run chase was built upon a rollicking 78 off 56 balls by Shikhar Dhawan while Pandey was superb.

So calm in the final overs, one would have thought it was he, instead of his captain M.S. Dhoni, who was the seasoned veteran.

The game changed complexion when Hastings removed Sharma in the 35th over. What had appeared a controlled run chase suddenly morphed into a nerve jangling finish.

Dhoni’s dawdling innings left India needing 13 to win off the final over, bowled by Marsh.

Dhoni heaved a huge six over long-off from the first ball but holed out the next delivery attempting to win the game with the same shot.

It took a boundary from Pandey to get the job done. The 3159 runs scored in the past fortnight set a record aggregate for a five-game bilateral series, overtaking the previous mark of 3151 set by England and New Zealand last winter. 

To be fair to the SCG’s head curator Tom Parker this strip offered arguably the most encouragement of the series but not enough to produce a true contest between bat and ball. It will be far tougher for Australia’s batsmen in New Zealand next month.

Manish Pandey’s unbeaten 102 got the vistors home and he was adjudged Man of the match whereas, Rohit Sharma having a dream run was declared Man of the series.

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