With nothing more than pride to play for, Australia found it hard to motivate themselves as India finished their Group 2 campaign in the World T20 with an all-win record on Sunday.
India were already in the semifinals while Australia were out of the race for a last-four spot following Bangladesh’s defeat to Pakistan in the day’s earlier match. And the contest, as it were, had no real context.
Batting first for the first time in four matches, India posted a competitive 159 for seven on the back of a sparkling half-century from Yuvraj Singh (60, 43b, 5x4, 4x6). Led by R Ashwin (4/11), the bowlers then produced their best performance yet to pack off a listless Australia to a sorry 86 in 16.2 overs for a comprehensive 73-run win at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.
Ashwin bagged his second successive man of the match prize after claiming his best T20 International figures. The off-spinner triggered an extraordinary collapse dismissing opener Aaron Finch before the rest were all over Australia like a bad rash. The spinners, who bagged seven wickets between them, were right on the money again while pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and debutant Mohit Sharma stuck to their task squeezing the life out of Aussie innings.
Yuvraj’s return to form was the biggest gain for India out of this contest which also served their purpose of testing their bench strength. If M S Dhoni had won the toss again, India may not have deviated from their tried and tested strategy of inserting the opposition but batting first meant that their largely unexposed middle order got a look in while the bowlers had to bowl second when gripping the ball, especially for the spinners, wouldn’t be that easy with the dew possibly setting in.
For a long time in their innings, the Indian batsmen found the going tough against an accurate Aussie attack. Skipper George Bailey appeared to give India a dose of their own medicine when he began the innings with spinners, and part-timers in that, at both ends. Rohit Sharma fell in the opening over to Brad Hodge while Ajinkya Rahane, who replaced Shikhar Dhawan, couldn’t kick on after a decent start. Virat Kohli suffered a rare failure while Suresh Raina never looked in. When the left-hander departed in the 12th over, India had mustered just 66 for four.
For the first time in the tournament, Yuvraj and Dhoni joined forces in the middle and set the clock back mounting a vintage assault on an unsuspecting bowling attack. Yuvraj had looked hardly the part in the two hits he had so far in Super Ten and his struggles didn’t seem to desert him on the day either. In what was a make or a mar innings for him, Yuvraj either missed the ball completely or miss-hit almost right through the first half of his innings before exploding in stunning style.
Young James Muirhead was impressive against West Indies on Friday and the leg-spinner accounted for the in-form Kohli for what promised to be another good outing. Yuvraj spoiled it with two mighty successive sixes in his second over that leaked 17 runs. Muirhead was never brought back. With those two massive heaves, Yuvraj had found himself. That feared bat-swing was back and so was his confidence.
His next target was Mitchell Starc whose third over went for 19 runs with Yuvraj sending him for a six and four. Shane Watson was then plundered for 16 as India gathered 70 runs in just five overs. The partnership between Dhoni and Yuvraj was worth 84 off 49 balls and even though the final two overs brought only 12 runs, the total was enough for another Indian stroll.