Kane Richardson (right) turned hero for his team on the day © Getty Images
Kane Richardson (right) turned hero for his team on the day © Getty Images

India were cruising to a record victory over Australia. A flat pitch with nothing in it for bowlers facilitated Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan to stage a dominating 212-run partnership which took India to the gates of victory. Everything indicated that India would complete a fantastic run chase and salvage pride after losing three games on the trot. However, John Hastings gave Australia a sniff into the happenings and Richardson cashed in with a spell that completed one of the most spectacular turnarounds limited-overs cricket. Rishad D’Souza elaborates on the significance of the performance that helped Australia to a 4-0 lead. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs Australia, 4th ODI at Canberra

Having lost the first three games of the five-match series, India were reduced to playing for consolatory victories. The feature of those games was that India lost all batting first with their bowlers unable to contain Australian batsmen on the predominantly flat decks. There were murmurs that India could have come out on top if they were chasing instead of setting. That speculation seemed to be coming true for major portion of the second innings in the fourth One-Day International at Manuka Oval. Full Cricket Blog: India vs Australia 2015-16, 4th ODI at Canberra

India were set a mammoth 349 to chase and while that seemed an overawing score before start of an innings, a brief peek into the way India were batting gave rise to belief that India could hunt it down. Rohit Sharma set the tone with a brisk innings of 41 from just 25. From there Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli staged an imposing 212-run stand at a rapid rate. MATCH REPORT: India’s spectacular capitulation awards Australia 25-run win in 4th ODI at Canberra

At the start of the 38th over there was negligible doubt that India would win and win comfortably. India were at 274 for 1, requiring just 75 runs from 13 overs at less than 6 an over. Even on a track with more assistance for bowlers and a more potent bowling attack, it would have been expected of India to come out on top of such an equation.

However, skipper Steven Smith decided to give it his best shot. Realising it was no point preserving his best bowlers for later in the innings, he gave John Hastings the ball for his 10th over. The move paid off with Hastings getting Dhawan dismissed for a fine hundred and adding to the doubt in India’s apparent certainty of victory by snarling MS Dhoni in the same over.

Australia still needed a generous helping of brilliance to win the game. That was delivered by a talented, yet circumstantially unexpected candidate, Richardson. In the 40th over, with India needing to score at a tad over six per over — in light of the proceedings with a determined, zealous Kohli still at the crease — the odds were still tipped in India’s favour. That began to change soon. Richardson flummoxed Kohli with accurate bowling mixed with clever variations and prised him out. There was an inkling that a spectacular collapse was upon us.

In India’s defence, they were a little stretched in batting depth in the middle order. Gurkeerat Singh and Rishi Dhawan are only new to international cricket and the pressures of the game at the grandest stage are unfamiliar to them. Ajinkya Rahane is a class act but was impeded by the minor injury he had suffered to his left thumb earlier.

Similar things could be said of the Australian attack though. Most of them are fresh to international cricket and moreover had taken a whacking for most part of the day which should have drained the last iota of spirit out of them. Yet, Richardson was above that. His captain gave him a job to perform and he was not to throw in the towel just yet.

Lyon dismissed Gurkeerat for five and Australia had a clear peek into the game now. Richardson took the initiative upon himself thereon. He started to get some late movement and bowled with unwavering accuracy. He was rewarded for his back-bending effort with Rahane’s scalp as the latter edged off to first slip.

Rishi was the next man to fall to Richardson. He holed out to cover and Richardson now had four and Australia started to force India out of the gates of victory to make way for themselves. India still hung on with one hand but Richardson booted them out by dismissing Bhuvneshwar Kumar. From thereon the game was a mere formality. Australia had won and Richardson was hero.

Often brilliance is accompanied with a bit of good fortune. Richardson’s first wicket was that of Rohit Sharma and it was perhaps the poorest kind of delivery that brought the wicket. It was a short ball down leg and Rohit gloved it on way to the keeper. That aside, Richardson was also assisted by some poor shot making by pressurised Indians. Nevertheless, his attack was single-minded and determined. He saw that the iron was hot and duly laid strike. His role in Australia’s marvellous reversal of fortune was central. It was a gentle reminder of Australia’s attitude of fierce perseverance.

(Rishad D’Souza, a reporter with CricketCountry, gave up hopes of playing Test cricket after a poor gully-cricket career. He now reports on the sport. You can follow @RDcric on Twitter)