INDIA VS AUSTRALIA 2ND T20I: WHEN MAX-HELL BROKE LOOSE IN BENGALURU

After 16 overs, Australia were 147/3, chasing 191 for victory. Glenn Maxwell had been toying with the Indian bowling and as usual, it became Jasprit Bumrah or bust for the hosts. The pivotal moment had arrived.

Bumrah’s first spell was miserly. He didn’t get a wicket, but his bowling was the reason why Australia had a below par Powerplay – just 42 runs, losing Marcus Stoinis and Aaron Finch in the process. Maxwell’s blitz had more than made up for the slow start, but Bumrah presented a different challenge.

Poor thinking from Krunal Pandya and an overthrow on the first ball brought Maxwell on strike. Bumrah bowled full and wide, and the Aussie marauder drove it over cover for a four. Three balls later, Maxwell used the entire depth of the crease to convert a length delivery into a short ball and hit a four past deep square leg. Twelve runs came from that over.

In Bumrah’s final over, Maxwell took a single off the first ball to reach his third T20I hundred. But more importantly, he had taken the game away from the hosts by then. Two sixes in the 18th over bowled by Siddarth Kaul had titled the balance completely in Australia’s favour. And when seven runs were needed off the final four deliveries, Maxwell hit another six followed by a four against Kaul to seal the series. The visitors won by seven wickets with two balls to spare. Maxwell, playing one of the finest T20I knocks on Indian soil, remained unbeaten on 113 off 55 balls. His innings had seven fours and nine sixes. The other four Australian batsmen had collectively hit only nine boundaries.

Without Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya, the Indian seam bowling in limited-overs cricket becomes virtually a one-man show. At Chinnaswamy on Wednesday, Vijay Shankar came in for Mayank Markande, while Kaul replaced Umesh Yadav. But they were never going to make a serious impact, especially on a flat pitch at a ‘six-hitting’ venue. As for the spinners, Yuzvendra Chahal was cancelled out by Maxwell’s fluidity and improvisation, and Krunal wasn’t a wicket-taking option, although he tried to keep things tight.

A six that Maxwell hit off Chahal in the 16th over was the most spectacular shot of the match. The leggie bowled wide outside off stump and the batsman reverse-swept it over the deep point boundary. Three days ago in the first T20I at Vizag, Maxwell had scored 56 off 43 deliveries. He fell prey to a Chahal leg-break, trying to clear the long-off boundary. Apart from displaying his improvisational skills, he opened his stance a bit and targeted the extra cover region, both against Chahal and Krunal.

This century wasn’t as devastating as his 65-ball 145 not out against Sri Lanka at Pallekele three years ago. But the beauty of this knock was that Maxwell went supersonic without taking too many risks.

“We were just talking about how we haven’t had a lot of success here. To come and perform as well as we have in these two T20s, it’s a great start to this tour. I think it helps playing a big bulk of T20 in the domestic tournament back home and come here. It was a pretty good wicket, so we were able to wait for anything slightly off line or length,” he said

“We just needed to get it to about 11 or 12 an over for the last four overs. We back ourselves from there. After D’Arcy’s dismissal, it was up to me to sit around and drive the innings forward. Pete Handscomb did a great job of getting off strike and being busy. We were able to keep consistently having good overs, and keep the run rate in check,” he said.

Virat Kohli, too, was full of praise. “We put up a decent total, 190 is a good score on any ground, but there was too much dew around, and when Maxy plays an innings like that, you can’t do too much.”

Earlier, Kohli played a sublime innings – 72 not out off 38 balls – to take India to 190/4 in 20 overs. KL Rahul provided the early impetus with a 26-ball 47. Successive sixes off Pat Cummins suggested a pretty decent improvement in his batting compared to the way he was playing in Australia a few months ago.

Yet again, though, Rahul got out when he should have continued. A ramp against Nathan Coulter-Nile went straight to Jhye Richardson.

Shikhar Dhawan got stuck at the other end. To be fair to him though, the pitch was a bit slow initially and the ball wasn’t coming on to the bat. The surface became very good for batting after the first 10 overs.

Kohli waited for a while before opening up. Three sixes on the spin against Coulter-Nile were the most attractive part of the highlights package. MS Dhoni scored 40 off 23 balls and added 100 runs with Kohli for the fourth wicket. Aaron Finch miscalculated big time and brought on Short in the 18th over. Nineteen runs were conceded. It could have been the turning point of the match. Maxwell’s brilliance made his skipper’s error redundant.