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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 05 March 2024

Ruturaj Gaikwad’s superb 123 not out goes in vain as Glenn Maxwell flattens India

In the end, Gaikwad's top innings (123 not out off 57 balls) was overshadowed by Maxwell’s amazing 104 not out off 48 balls as Australia snatched a win away from India. The visitors won by five wickets in a tense last-ball finish in the third game in Guwahati on Tuesday

Our Bureau Calcutta Published 29.11.23, 08:37 AM
Two centuries, but different results. While the 104 not out off 48 balls by Glenn Maxwell (left) turned out to be a match-winning effort, Ruturaj Gaikwad's equally stunning 123 not out off 57 balls ended up in a losing cause, in the third T20I against Australia in Guwahati on Tuesday.

Two centuries, but different results. While the 104 not out off 48 balls by Glenn Maxwell (left) turned out to be a match-winning effort, Ruturaj Gaikwad's equally stunning 123 not out off 57 balls ended up in a losing cause, in the third T20I against Australia in Guwahati on Tuesday. Pictures: PTI

After Ishan Kishan and Yashasvi Jaiswal, it was Ruturaj Gaikwad’s turn this time around to tear into this second-string Australian attack. He did so in style, picking up his maiden T20I century. But the Aussie batting line-up is not as feeble as their bowling. Not when it has a Glenn Maxwell in it.

In the end, Gaikwad's top innings (123 not out off 57 balls) was overshadowed by Maxwell’s amazing 104 not out off 48 balls as Australia snatched a win away from India. The visitors won by five wickets in a tense last-ball finish in the third game in Guwahati on Tuesday.

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India still lead the five-match series 2-1, but the Aussies will fancy their chances after Tuesday's stunning victory.

In reply to India’s 222/3 after being put in, their ODI World Cup final tormentor Travis Head had taken Australia off to a flier. But after the dangerous-looking Head’s dismissal, brought about by a well-directed slower one by pacer Avesh Khan (replacing Mukesh Kumar, who has been granted leave for his wedding), Maxwell had to do the bulk of the scoring for Australia and almost ran out of partners.

Neither Marcus Stoinis nor Tim David could provide him with the kind of assists he required. Skipper Matthew Wade did accelerate, but much later.

However, Maxwell, after his unbelievable, unbeaten 201 against Afghanistan in the ODI World Cup just three weeks ago, produced another gem which was all about his sensational strokeplay that left India stunned. Australia needed 21 off the final over, but Prasidh Krishna, who kept the 18th over quite tight despite a rampaging Maxwell, erred in length and allowed both Wade and Maxwell to come up with their shots.

With 16 needed off the last four balls, Prasidh bowled the wrong length and Maxwell worked it over extra cover for a maximum. Prasidh kept erring and his slower one too went wrong as Maxwell hit three successive boundaries to seal the game for Australia.

Getting a record-equalling (with Rohit Sharma) fourth century in his 100th appearance in T20 Internationals, the parting blow from Maxwell — before he leaves for home with a few others — couldn't have been more befitting.

After Gaikwad laid the platform early on, spinners Ravi Bishnoi and Axar Patel once again played a crucial role for India on a belter of a surface to restrict Australia in the middle overs. Together, leg-spinner Bishnoi (2/32, removing Josh Inglis and Tim David) and left-armer Axar (1/37, dismissing the off-colour Marcus Stoinis) took three wickets and gave away only 69 runs off eight overs, once again underlining their experience in bowling in such batsmen-friendly conditions.

But little did they know what lay ahead, especially with Maxwell bringing out his A-game in a crisis situation once again. Owing to the slow over rate, India also incurred a penalty as they could keep only four fielders in the deep before the final over.

Ruturaj rocks

With the ball too, the start wasn’t at all bad for the Australians as Jason Behrendorff, returning to the XI, dismissed Jaiswal before Kane Richardson (replacing Sean Abbott) accounted for Kishan, reducing India to 24/2 in the fourth over. A well-set Surya (39), too, departed in the 11th over as Australia then did have a fair chance to restrict India below 180.

But Behrendorff aside, the other Australian bowlers turned out to be a level below mediocre, especially in the slog overs. And given Gaikwad’s ability, he didn’t spare any one of them.

His steady 58 in the second T20I on Sunday helped Jaiswal, Kishan and Rinku Singh to blaze away. On this occasion as well, he was just as steady but made sure to unleash the big strokes when it mattered.

The support he got from Tilak Varma (31 not out) in their unbroken 141-run fourth-wicket stand was equally important. But what stood out was the 26-year-old’s effortless strokes on both sides of the wicket en route to his 52-ball hundred.

What also aided Gaikwad was Wade’s bizarre decision to give the 20th over to Maxwell. Dealing in boundaries and sixes, Gaikwad ensured to feast on Maxwell, blasting the latter for three maximums and two boundaries in an over that yielded India 30.

But in what was a must-win game for his side, Maxwell made amends by hammering eight fours and as many sixes much to the relief of his teammates.

The Aussie plan

Maxwell said the plan was to take the tough chase deep. "The dew obviously makes it difficult, we knew it was going to be hard work to bowl yorkers.

"We thought if we could stay in the hunt until the last over, we could give ourselves a chance, you never know it might come off the middle and you might stay in the game. We did really well to stay in the game until the final over," Maxwell said.

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