| Shami Ahmed jubilates after claiming one of his three wickets, in the fourth ODI, against Australia, in Ranchi, on Wednesday. (PTI) |
Ranchi: What was believed to be a happy hunting ground for Mahendra Singh Dhoni, turned into a wet ground on Wednesday evening, courtesy an almost two-hour long downpour.
As a result, the fourth one-dayer between India and Australia was called off, enabling the visitors to maintain their 2-1 lead in the seven match series.
There was every chance of an entertaining chase by India as openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma looked confident to overhaul the 296-run target. But all such hopes were chased away by the rain.
India were 27 without loss after 4.1 overs when the players had to leave the ground and the groundsmen had to drag the monstrous covers onto the pitch.
Finally when the rain relented, the groundsmen swung into action, trying to ‘de-hydrate’ the ground. They did their best, but it wasn’t enough.
The umpires, after inspection, decided that it was too wet for the match to start at the cut-off time of 9.10pm (for a minimum 20 overs of the Indian innings). They called off the match.
The packed JSCA International Stadium, which was buzzing with expectation in the afternoon, fell silent when the giant electronic board declared that it was all over for the day.
The rain not only robbed the match of a result, it has also stolen the opportunity of being the No.1 ODI side from the Australians. The visitors had to win the series 6-1 to displace India at the top. But that no longer is possible.
However, the Indians gained on quite a few fronts. True, that they had chased down a 350-plus total a few days back, but fact is that their chase on Wednesday wouldn’t have been easy.
With the pitch offering bounce and some movement, the Australian pacers, especially Mitchell Johnson, could have made life difficult out in the middle. Had India failed to win, they would have gone down 1-3 in the series and making a comeback would have been difficult.
But with the scoreline remaining 1-2, India now need to win their next match to draw level.
But India’s biggest gain from Wednesday’s called-off match would be Shami Ahmed.
Very rarely do we get a pacer in India who can swing the ball both ways at 140kmph. In Shami, we have one now. The way he swung them in and out under an overcast sky, any cricket romantic would fall in love with his bowling.
The deliveries, which dismissed Aaron Finch and Shane Watson, would have made even an Allan Donald proud. Swinging in after pitching, on both occasions the ball went between the bat and pad of the batsmen before rocking the stumps.
After the match, Dhoni himself lauded Shami, saying that the Bengal pacer is “deceptive”, that is he bowls a lot faster than people think him to be capable of. But then, why was he warming the bench for so long while Ishant Sharma bowled like a school kid?
With the South Africa series coming up, the Indian selectors should immediately confirm Shami’s ticket.
Coming to the match, which in the end was a no-match, George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell played saviours as Australia recovered from early jitters to post 295 for eight on the board after being put to bat.
Bailey’s 94-ball 98 and Maxwell’s 77-ball 92 reformed the backbone of the Australian innings after it was broken by Shami. They shared a 153-run fifth wicket partnership which rescued the side from a situation when they were four down for just 71 runs.
Dhoni, on Wednesday, finally opted for changes as Shami and Jaydev Unadkat replaced Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the playing XI. While it was good that Shami and Unadkat were given the opportunity to prove their worth, one really didn’t understand the logic behind dropping Bhuvneshwar, by far the most impressive Indian bowler in the ongoing series.
Dhoni’s captaincy is at times confusing with a capital C. Not only was his team selection weird, it was also pretty surprising to find that Shami didn’t get to bowl his complete quota of 10 overs.
With figures of 8-1-42-3, he was not only the most successful Indian bowler, he was also very economical.
India’s fielding also was below standard as they dropped as many as five chances. Both Bailey and Maxwell build their innings on reprieves.