Jason Behrendorff’s four-wicket burst sparked an Indian collapse, and Moises Henriques and Travis Head then smoked India out to help Australia to an eight-wicket win in the second of three Twenty20 Internationals, in Guwahati – also the first ever international game at Barsapara Cricket Stadium – on Tuesday (October 10).
Asked to bat first, India sank to 27 for 4 – all wickets falling to Behrendorff – before recovering somewhat to end on 118. Australia, after a couple of early setbacks, motored past the target in just 15.3 overs for the series-levelling win.
In a 119-run chase, allowing even one of David Warner or Aaron Finch to get off to a start could be a nail in the coffin. India did well, therefore, to remove both inside three overs to leave Australia at 13 for 2.
Jasprit Bumrah removed Warner while Bhuvneshwar accounted for Finch, Virat Kohli holding on to the catch on both occasions, punctuating each with a fist-pump.
But his celebrations, it turned out, were premature.
India hadn’t seen too much of Henriques on this tour. He wasn’t part of the One-Day International series and he had an all-too-brief stay at the crease in the first T20I. This time, India got a good, long – too long, in fact – look after the batsman was promoted to No. 3.
It was at this very venue in 2016-17 that Himachal Pradesh were bowled out for 36 by Hyderabad in a Ranji Trophy game. Himachal Pradesh managed to win that, but there was no great escape for India.
Henriques (62 not out in 46 balls) found excellent support at the other end from Head (48 not out in 34) and together the two put on a brilliant unbroken 109-run stand for the third wicket. That meant the crowd, which had been very audible even in the press box throughout the game, was kept so quiet one could only hear the whirr of the air-conditioner. Spare a thought for them, though; most of the stands remained full even as victory seemed imminent. Australia got there in the 16th over to finish at 122 for 2.
Behrendorff didn’t have a particularly memorable debut in the first T20I, if one can call a match where he didn’t get to bat and bowled precisely one over in a six-over innings a debut.
But with rain clearing up an hour before the toss, Behrendorff’s chances of bowling his full quota of overs brightened after Warner won the toss. And he wasn’t about to let opportunity’s knock go unanswered.
Behrendorff came steaming in and despite Rohit Sharma hitting two boundaries in his first over, he trapped him in front off the fourth ball. Kohli lasted two balls before Behrendorff snaffled him next for a duck.
A breathless first over for Behrendorff was then followed by, incredibly, a wicket in each of his second and third overs. Manish Pandey nicked one behind, while Shikhar Dhawan, targeting the long-on boundary, was unlucky to find Warner take a running catch. India 27 for 4, all the wickets taken by one man.
Kedar Jadhav and MS Dhoni then forged a partnership – ‘finally’ would have been the word on the spectators’ lips – and for a while the boundaries were flowing off Jadhav’s bat. It seemed India might just turn the tide. At least going by the crowd’s cheers gaining in decibel after being shushed by Behrendorff.
But it turned out to be a false dawn with Adam Zampa dismissing both in a short space of time. Zampa got one turn away from middle and Tim Paine, the wicketkeeper, did the needful to send Dhoni on his way, the stand yielding 33 runs. He then castled Jadhav, the top-scorer of the innings, for a run-a-ball 27.
The score read 70 for 7 when Nathan Coulter-Nile, a silent bystander all the while, nabbed Bhuvneshwar. Hardik Pandya, who played the role of the firefighter on a burning deck in a similar situation during the Champions Trophy 2017 final, then produced a few lusty hits but couldn’t reprise his role as he fell for 25 to Marcus Stoinis.
The batsmen were haring between the wickets, realising every run now was crucial, but Australia did well to contain them to 118. After that, Henriques and Head sealed the deal.