Talking points: Ashton Turner turns it, India keep spilling it

Driven by Peter Handscomb‘s 117 and a stunning 83 not out off 43 balls from Ashton Turner, Australia clinched an incredible four-wicket win over India at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali on Sunday.

This win, after Australia were set a target of 359, has levelled the series at 4-4 and turned the final ODI in New Delhi into a tasty decider.

Here are five major talking points from the match:

Is Turner the finisher Australia desperately need?

Australia’s need for an ODI finisher has seen them experiment with players and batting positions, but without much success. They may have found their answer in Turner, who in his second ODI hurried to a maiden half-century in 33 balls and finished 83 not out.

Given a life on 38 by Rishabh Pant who missed a leg-side stumping, and dropped on 74 and 80, Turner changed the tone of the match with an exceptional innings. His hand-eye coordination was astounding, particularly as he threaded the gaps in the offside with precision and got his wrists into play to whip and flick runs. Two fours of Kuldeep got him going, then came a flat six back over the same bowler’s head. A second six off Yuzvendra Chahal was all power.

In the 45th over, bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Turner hit two sixes and a four to leave the asking rate at 42 from a very 30 balls. Then just came the most stunning shot, as Turner walked across and exposed the stumps to scoop Jasprit Bumrah for six. First ball of the 47th over, Bhuvneshwar was lofted over long-on for six more. Off the next ball, he was dropped at deep midwicket by a diving Kedar Jadhav, and then swung four to move to 80 off 40 balls – a strike-rate of 200. Then Shikhar Dhawan dropped the easiest of catches at mid-off to give Turner a third life. By then, the game was over thanks to Turner.

Handscomb puts his hand up

Handscomb’s form in his latest avatar as an ODI batsman has seen him score 19, 48, 0 and a maiden hundred. His 105-ball 117 in Mohali was a very good innings that kept Australia going in a huge chase, and underlined Handscomb’s ability to play spin while keeping a sensible head.

Rishabht Pant had a very bad day, Peter Handscomb one to remember.
Rishabht Pant had a very bad day, Peter Handscomb one to remember. AFP

Usman Khawaja’s 91 in a stand of 192 with Handscomb was equally vital, and Turner’s blitz will dominate headlines, but subtract Handscomb’s cool innings and Austalia’s win would not have been possible.

When Steve Smith and David Warner return, Handscomb could retain his place as a wicketkeeper-batsman owing to his batting form, while pushing Alec Carey out of the World Cup squad.

India’s horrible day in the field

Misfields, misjudged running, dropped catches and a missed stumping. India had a very bad day in the field, which added to Australia’s stunning chase. “We were sloppy and not at our best,” said Virat Kohli tersely after the loss.

Bumrah fumbled at short third man to allow three runs, Rohit Sharma over-ran the ball at deep midwicket and gave an extra run. Pant was a big blot, missing a straightforward stumping to give Turner a reprieve, loosely collecting a throw that should have run out Handscomb on 109 and also putting down a tough chance. Jadhav misjudged Turner’s pull shot in the deep and was late to react to what should have been a good take. Dhawan … well, he put down a dolly at mid-off.

Dhawan’s return to form

Any doubts about Dhawan’s place as one of India’s openers at the World Cup this summer were laid to rest as he blazed his way to a career-best 143 from 115 balls to help lay the base for India’s 359/8. After a string of low scores, Dhawan tucked into Australia’s bowlers at the same venue at which he smashed a record 187 on Test debut in 2013 to raise his 16th ODI century.

After a lean run, Shikhar Dhawan roared back with a career-best 143
After a lean run, Shikhar Dhawan roared back with a career-best 143. (Image: Twitter/Cricket Australia

Dhawan hit 18 fours and three sixes while putting on 193 for the opening wicket with Rohit, the highest first-wicket stand at PCA Stadium. After going 17 innings without a hundred, and having not crossed 28 in his last six innings, there was speculation about Dhawan’s place in the XI and with KL Rahul back in the ODI squad, it was surmised that things could change if Dhawan kept failing.

But with a commanding 143 – India’s fifth highest individual score against Australia in ODIs – Dhawan has roared back.

Kohli drops down to four

Ravi Shastri, India’s coach, stated recently that batting Kohli a spot lower at No 4 was something he had considered. When Rohit was dismissed for 95, it wasn’t Kohli who sauntered out at No 3 but Rahul instead. Kohli had last batted at No 4 in October 2015. Clearly it was a move to give the recall Rahul a chance to show why he should go to the World Cup.

On Sunday, Kohli made just 7, his second single-figure score in his past 31 ODI innings. Rahul got 26 off 31 balls, with one boundary. The move to bat at No 4 is one that India are likely to shelve, given that Kohli has amassed 8723 runs at an average of 63.67 from that spot, with 34 of his 41 ODI hundreds. And with Ambati Rayudu struggling – he was rested for the fourth ODI – Rahul is probably going to get his next chance at No 4.