India won in Canberra
India won in Canberra Image Credit: PTI

VVS Laxman

Even though it was a dead rubber, India’s desperation was evident. In the end, that manifested itself in a thrilling but well-deserved 13-run win in the final ODI in Canberra, a result they will hopefully use to gather momentum going into the T20 series starting on Friday. Virat won an important toss, but that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t put runs on the board. India’s top order got off to starts but with the exception of the skipper, no one carried on, which wasn’t ideal. Shubman Gill played some stunning strokes until his dismissal, and he is one player whose progress I will follow with keen interest. Intelligent as he is, the young man will quickly realise the value of making a good thing count.

India were in a spot when they lost Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli in quick succession. Another wicket then, and the advantage of the toss would have been totally frittered away. Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja ensured that didn’t happen with an outstanding partnership that underpinned their growing maturity and composure as batsmen.

Hardik has the well-founded reputation of being a dasher, but in this series, he has shown that he can bat in more than one gear. His situational awareness has been exemplary, and he again demonstrated that he is as equipped to build an innings as he is adept at unleashing big strokes towards the end. He has been the biggest batting gain on this tour.

Jadeja’s batting has gone to another level following his World Cup semifinal half-century against New Zealand. He trusts his game a lot more and is thinking like a batsman. He and Pandya complemented each other beautifully to push the team past 300.

Then, the real Jasprit Bumrah stood up. Desperately unlucky not to get wickets in his first spell, he extracted terrific bounce and considerable lateral movement with the new ball. It was great to see him back in his elements, because it is this version India need during the Test matches.

The pressure he imposed resulted in wickets at the other end. This match reiterated that there is no substitute for wickets even in white-ball cricket. Had Australia batted out 50 overs, they would have romped home.

I thoroughly enjoyed T Natarajan’s first day in international cricket. Having worked with him for two and a half months in the UAE, I can assert that this couldn’t have happened to a more deserving man with a wonderful work ethic, willingness to listen and eagerness to keep improving. Shardul Thakur was another hero, rewarded for hitting the right lengths with three crucial wickets.

After two heavy losses, this victory should lift India immeasurably. As must the fact that Bumrah is back in business.