After suffering consecutive defeats, Virat Kohli-led India redeemed themselves in the final ODI of the series by clinching a narrow 13-run victory at Canberra on Wednesday. Shrugging off a woeful display with the ball in the first two games, the Indian bowling unit -- a shuffled one -- got its mojo back to restrict the Aussie batting force. While Jasprit Bumrah was back to his old self, Shardul Thakur and T Natarajan justified their selection by scalping three and two wickets respectively.
Though the Indian bowling contingent salvaged a win in the final ODI, the Australian batsmen took the centre stage in the first two games. Exactly 2000 runs were scored in the span of a week and it's safe to say that the Aussie batsmen made Indian bowlers look hapless.
Glenn Maxwell, after being tagged among flops of the recent IPL edition, looked like a different version of himself. The '10-crore cheerleader' had scored just 108 runs in the UAE. Unperturbed by his woeful IPL 2020, Maxwell hammered 167 runs against India. His scores in three ODIs were -- 45, 63, 59. Surprisingly, Maxwell, who didn't hit a single six for Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) this year, smoked boundaries and switch-hits against India from the word go.
It was quite a turnaround for him. From being ineffective in the IPL 2020 to smashing boundaries for fun against an ineffective Indian bowling set-up, Maxwell transformed into a completely different player in a matter of days.
The right-hander has always looked lethal on the Australian soil and his recent batting exploits are nothing but a testament to his batting abilities. Ahead of the start of the three-match series, no one would've imagined that Maxwell would simply be unstoppable against the likes of Mohammed Shami and Yuzvendra Chahal. Left amused by Maxwell's radical change, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) fans even accused him of masquerading as someone else in UAE conditions.
Following his shambolic IPL performance, little did anyone know about his batting exploits in the ODI series. A lot of credit has to be given to the nature of Australian pitches. In Australia's previous white-ball series against England, also their first assignment post coronavirus hiatus, Maxwell had bagged the Player of the Series by scoring a match-winning ton in the final ODI. His scores in the series against England were -- 77, 1, 108.
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Steve Smith was arguably the show-stopper of the series. Though he missed the top run-scorer spot by a whisker, the right-hander was sublime in the first two ODIs. After Warner and Finch laid the foundation, it was Smith who steered Australia to a colossal total in both the games.
Smith himself admitted about getting his 'rhythm' back after a torrid IPL 2020. The Rajasthan Royals (RR) skipper had a bittersweet journey in the UAE as his men finished at the bottom of the points table. Smith did strike a couple of solid fifties in the tournament but his overall impact was nowhere close to his batting show in the ODI series.
In his 14 IPL games, Smith struck 311 runs at an average of 25.91 and a strike-rate 131.22, which included three half-centuries. Post his lacklustre outing in the UAE, Smith seemed to have made little adjustments in his batting. He was playing the ones angled in more close to his body, allowing him to play the shots straight down the ground which he usually drifts it behind square leg. A change in batting grip also helped the right-hander.
"I guess over the years I have had a couple of different grips. When I was batting my best back in 2014 and 2015 World Cup my top hand was probably straight down the middle of the back of the bat," Smith told Fox Cricket.
"It was just one net session during our quarantine about three days before the first game (played at the SCG on November 27) where I just started doing that again. I went back and looked at a lot of footage from 2014 and 2015 and I tried it and everything just clicked into place and it felt good, so hopefully, it can continue to feel good," added Smith.
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Talking about Aaron Finch, he managed to gather just 268 runs in 12 games in his maiden IPL season for Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). While his partner Devdutt Padikkal emerged as RCB's highest run-scorer this year, Finch's UAE journey was plagued with inconsistency. Finch scored just one half-century during RCB's another unsuccessful march towards maiden IPL silverware.
Finch's batting woes in the IPL were underlined with red ink for two primary reasons -- 1. His failure to justify his INR 4.4 crore price tag 2. A naive Padikkal stealing the show at the top instead of an experienced Finch.
However, Finch, just like Maxwell, shifted gears and turned the tables in the ODI series. Not only did he provide robust starts along with David Warner, but also finished as the highest run-getter of the series. Eclipsing Smith in the list, Finch amassed 249 runs including a ton and two half-centuries in three matches.
Finch has always been better in the ODIs and it looked like he took time to settle in rather than attacking the bowler right from ball one. With Warner returning to his aggressive best, Finch was able to handle the proceedings patiently and take time to build his knocks. That also allowed him to play deeper into the innings and stitch prolonged innings.
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