Australia were staring down the barrel when they were trailing the series 0-2 after losing the Hyderabad and Nagpur ODIs. However, Usman Khawaja sparked a revival, scoring 104, 91 and 100 in the three ODIs in Ranchi, Mohali and Delhi as Australia registered a remarkable 3-2 series win to clinch an ODI series in India after 10 years. Khawaja’s tally made him the most successful batsman in a five-match ODI series against India in India, overtaking David Warner’s tally of 367 runs in the 2017 series which Australia lost 1-4. Speaking in the post-match press conference after winning the Man of the Series award, Khawaja said there were some plans in place by the Australian batsmen to counter Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and India’s ace death-overs bowler in Jasprit Bumrah.
“I have been using the sweep and reverse sweep effectively in the Test tour of UAE against Pakistan. Sometimes, you get good wickets in India. When it is spinning, one has to find ways to score. One has to assess the wicket. Peter Handscomb likes to use his feet and this is how he liks to play when he assesses the conditions,” Khawaja remarked.
The left-hander made four fifty-plus scores in the series and he was ably assisted by Handscomb, who smashed his maiden century in Mohali and his fourth fifty. In most of the games, the duo employed the sweep and used their feet well to tackle the spinners. Both strung a partnership of 99 in the deciding game while Handscomb played a vital part in Australia chasing 359 in the Mohali game.
When asked about how they tackled Bumrah, who took just seven wickets in the series and also failed to control the flow of runs in the death overs. “You aim to score runs towards the death overs. There is a lot of respect for Bumrah and the guys have handled the Indian pacer well,” Khawaja said.
All about confidence
Virat Kohli had said India had played fearlessly in the series in Australia and it helped them win a series for the first time Down Under. Khawaja, in response, said Australia seized the moments here, something which they could not in the series in January 2019.
“We always had the confidence. There were a few moments in the MCG game where we had some moments and could have won the series. We did not win then. If we won in Ranchi, we knew anybody can win. The guys put their hands up in the last two games after Ranchi. It is never easy to beat India. They have the best ODI player in Virat Kohli. Rohit is an excellent player over a long period of time. The likes of Jasprit and Shami are wonderful. We had good plans to their batsmen,” Khawaja said.
When asked whether there were any words of motivation after they were trailing 0-2 heading into the Ranchi ODI, Khawaja said there was no special message. “The messages have been consistent from Justin and Finch. We should have won the Nagpur ODI. We knew we were close. We were losing the 50-50 matches. There was no magic speech. Everybody was playing good cricket. Everybody is enjoying their game. Even when we lost the first couple of games, there was a good vibe in the group and we were indulging in a lot of fun activities. I think everyone is gelling very well. No one is looking too far ahead.,” Khawaja said.
The left-hander said the team is not looking too far into the World Cup and they just want to enjoy this win. “It is huge. Winning a series in India is massive. Tough place to come play cricket against a very good side. They beat us in Australia. To come back from the losses in the first couple of games and win three in a row is a great feeling. I am feeling good at the moment. I am not taking anything for granted. I am enjoying the wins more. he World Cup is very far away. The five ODIs against Pakistan is coming up. We have played some good cricket. It is new games against new teams in new conditions. If you look too far ahead, you can get in trouble,” Khawaja said.
Australia will play five ODIs against Pakistan with the first game beginning on March 22 while Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team will play the Indian Premier League from March 23.