This entire ODI series has been crying out for a youngster to step up for India and show this team isn't just about the top three. Well, finally one of them did that, with Manish Pandey playing an innings that might just make his career to guide India to their first win in this series.
In another match that sent those pulses racing up and down and up and down, Pandey showed just what a talent he is, showing ice-cool nerves, the kind of nerves that even MS Dhoni would have been proud of, to see India home while chasing a big Australia total of 330. In the process of guiding India to victory, Pandey (104 n.o., 81b, 8x4, 1x6) scored his first hundred in international cricket, with the glorious mark coming in the final over of the match, off a delightful glide for a four down to third man, a ball after his skipper Dhoni fell, to virtually seal the match for his team.
The chase was setup by the two openers – Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan – with the left-hander taking it to the Australia bowling attack from ball one. It is amazing what confidence can do for you and after a half-century and a hundred in the last two matches, Dhawan was a batsman transformed, with pretty much everything striking the middle of that bat. His 69-ball 78 (7x4, 3x4) laid the perfect platform for India to reach their target of 331, with Rohit, this time, deciding to play the anchor's role.
He was doing that pretty well too, staying strong after Virat Kohli got out early, until a tickle off John Hastings, who was by far the pick of the bowlers for Australia, while on 99 (108b, 9x4, 1x6), gave the home team a sniff of victory. And as Australia showed in the 4th ODI, if you give them an inch they will take a yard, and they went about building pressure with every over as Dhoni struggled at the crease.
The skipper was lucky to survive early on as well, with Nathan Lyon dropping a simple catch, but Dhoni (34, 42b, 1x4, 1x6) hung in there with Pandey, who looked like a player in his 200th match, rather than one in only his fourth.
Take it deep has always been Dhoni's mantra, and after that life, the skipper did just that, with India going into the final over needing 13 runs. A wide and a Dhoni six brought that to six from five balls, and even if the captain fell in the next ball, Pandey saw his team through, and in the process getting to his maiden hundred as well.
Earlier, another Australian batting masterclass ended up with India having to chase another big total. David Warner and Mitchell Marsh struck ridiculously-good centuries to spur Australia to a big 330 for seven in 50 overs in the 5th ODI at the SCG in Sydney.
Choosing to field first again, MS Dhoni would have hoped for a better bowling effort from his side, and for the first 22 overs they did all right. Australia were on the mat a little at 117/4 in the 22nd over, after losing Aaron Finch, Steve Smith, George Bailey and Shaun Marsh, but then the latter's little brother came into the crease and forged a brilliant took-the-innings-away 118-run partnership with Warner.
The left and right-hand duo cranked up the pressure on the bowlers with such ease, and the moment the India bowlers were under the pump, they folded rather easily. Only Jasprit Bumrah (10-0-40-2), in his debut, made any kind of impact with the ball, picking up the wicket of Smith with a nice short ball that hurried onto the batsman, and showing some white ball nous, with his change of pace and yorkers.
If Bumrah continues down the same path, India might have a big bowler on their hands, with the Gujarat pacer also taking the wicket of the dangerous James Faulkner towards the end of the innings.
But, this first innings was about Warner and Marsh. Warner struggled for timing and control early in the innings, but always found a way to keep that strike rate up with a big shot. India's fielding for the most part was OK, but there were a couple of chances here and there that went awry, and Marsh and Warner took full advantage of them, with the former severe on anything that was dropped short or really pitched up.
Once Warner fell for a brilliant 122 (113b, 9x4, 3x6), off a slow ball to Ishant Sharma (10-0-60-2), Marsh (102 n.o., 84b, 9x4, 2x6), who got to his first ODI hundred in the final over of the innings, took over the boundary-hitting duties, with Matthew Wade (36, 27b, 2x4, 1x6) chipping in with a decent knock as well.
Watch Australia vs India 5th ODI match highlights HERE