After two incredibly one-sided contests in Sydney, the focus shifted to Canberra in a game of pride for both the sides. India, recovering from 152/5 - on the back of Pandya-Jadeja partnership scored 302 in the first innings. In the chase, Australia despite Maxwell's brilliance fell short by 14 runs.
New Age Indian openers have a conversion problem
Ask the Indian cricket fans who have watched the team closely in the late 90s and the early 2000s, one thing that pretty much stayed immortal in Indian cricket was the openers converting their starts into a triple-digit score. The Sachin Tendulkars, Sourav Gangulys and in the last decade - Rohit Sharmas and Shikhar Dhawans, all of them converted their starts into a massive score - which eventually paved the way for the middle-order to cash in. However, with Rohit’s fitness not really helping the cause for himself and Dhawan’s stop-life affair with poor games in between magnanimous ones - India does have an opening problem.
The race has been a three-way one - Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal. All of them have showcased their batting prowess in the IPL - catching the attention of the Indian selectors rightly and have also got a look-in the Indian setup. All of them have had a pretty worrying similarity - the inability to convert good starts. In their last innings respectively, Gill has scored 33, Shaw 40 and Mayank 28, which has eerily shown a trend. In the absence of Rohit Sharma, both in New Zealand and Australia - the three openers have had issues converting scores into a substantial one, which would hurt India in the near future as they continue to look for openers in the country.
Ashton Agar pushes his case for a 50-over World Cup spot
It is a dead-rubber, as evident as it looks on the TV screen but more importantly, it provides an opportunity for the fringe players to leave a mark. Ahead of this game, Australia just fielded two outright pacers, with the all-rounders Moises Henriques and Cameron Green filling the vacant spot of a third pacer, with their overs in the middle. But that also was a surprise as Australia went with two spinners - Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar. While Zampa has been impressive from the start of the series, the onus was on Agar to continue their ‘golden’ run with one less pace option. The last game that he played was in the 3-0 drubbing against South Africa, where he went wicketless in his nine overs, conceding 48 runs.
But this time with the World Cup in India, where spinners have revelled more than others - Agar is pushing a strong case for himself for a place in the World Cup squad. Not only his lines were immaculate, his questioning lengths often left the Indian batsmen in two minds - which eventually culminated in the dismissal of KL Rahul and Shubman Gill, both of whom were caught right in front sweeping. Alongside that a cushion for Zampa in terms of controlling the tempo allowed Australia to nicely restrict the Indian side, who play spin really well, which sets a template for how the Kangaroos can operate in the sub-continent. With a spell of 2/44, Agar made a really nice case for himself.
Shardul Thakur’s execution shows blueprint to succeed in Australia
India came into this series on the back of a stinking loss against New Zealand away from home. Their bowling was well under the mark and right in the radar of all the critics ahead of the series. While their batting substantially improved with Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya bailing them out of trouble with the bat, they needed a similar repeat performance with the ball with Jasprit Bumrah struggling in the series thus far. But ahead of the third encounter, Kohli’s team walked out with a different set of bowlers with Jasprit Bumrah - Shardul Thakur and Natarajan, which changed the entire bowling landscape.
The Mumbaikar Thakur was on the mark from the very first delivery, bowling his go-to-delivery, the cross-seamed one striking. He got rid of the dangerous Steve Smith in just his second over, getting the in-form batsman to tickle one down the leg-side. Ever since that wicket, Thakur’s line and length were immaculate - right on the spot, outside the off-stump catching Cameron Green constantly with ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as he showed the entire bowling team - the Australian length of bowling. Ahead of the T20I series and the Test series, Thakur might just have shown the management what they were missing, in terms of line, length and personnel. He ended up with figures of 3/51 in his ten overs with a maiden over in between.