Dhoni and Pandya added 118 runs for the sixth wicket    AFP
Dhoni and Pandya added 118 runs for the sixth wicket AFP

It was Glenn Maxwell vs India. His reverse-sweeps, scoops, heaves vs India. The contest was not yet over, despite Australia losing 4 wickets for 35, with David Warner alone scoring 25.

After over a two-hour interruption due to rain, Australia’s target was revised to 162 runs off 21 overs. Wickets had fallen, but the stage was set for the rampant Maxwell.

Jasprit Bumrah had taken a brilliant catch running forward to send captain Steven Smith packing. He added a mere run extra than Kohli s nothing. The newcomer Hilton Cartwright had succumbed to pressure, opening his defence so Bumrah s length ball can rattle the stumps. Hardik Pandya had knuckled down Travis Head, making the Australian his second victim. Amidst the dreadful cascading, Maxwell joined Warner, but MS Dhoni casted his magic on the Australian vice-captain and cut short his stay.

Maxwell vs India, nonetheless.

Dhoni purposely replaced Yuzvendra Chahal with Pandya. He had envisaged that Maxwell would execute his reverse-strokeplay, and so happened. Dhoni then pushed a fielder at deep cover-point. However, Maxwell swept, fooling the Indians. He then swept and hoicked more, collecting a four and three sixes off Kuldeep Yadav s over.

In the next over, Chahal did exceptionally well to produce three consecutive dot balls against Maxwell, but the angry Australian avenged the loss with a six off the next ball. The match was slipping away from India.

Maxwell would have taken a single and retained strike, something the best finishers do. But Maxwell does not have a reputation for that. He went for another six, only to find Manish Pandey at long-on. Australia and Maxwell both lost to India.

The last half of the tale folded how it had unfolded. Australia struggled more, falling short by 26 runs.

Pandya was adjudged Man of the Match. In fact, had he not taken 2 wickets, he would have anyway received it for his remarkable batsmanship. There was Dhoni in contention, but Pandya s roof-touching, match-changing, momentum-stealing sixes took the cake.

Dhoni and Pandya lifted India from the ruins. From 87 for 5, they resurrect India to 281 for 7, also thanks to a late blitz from Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Dhoni wiped out all his critics, yet again displaying character in the face of danger. While doing so, he completed a century of half-centuries in international cricket. But now we are digressing. This story is also about Pandya. Dhoni often does that to writers, acting as a great distraction.

Pandya reached his half-century in 48 deliveries. Given the pace at which he had started, it should have taken him 70 deliveries at least. However, Pandya gets bored soon. He likes fireworks, be it any format.

As Pandya got accustomed to the conditions, he unleashed the beast in him.

Mind you, the same track had forced Ajinkya Rahane, Pandey, and Kohli to get late into executing their strokes. India never looked like crossing 200, for the Australians had hatched an impeccable game plan.

Pandya was supposed to fall as well. Dhoni was there; he always will be; remember, he did not get out in the Sri Lanka series comprising 5 ODIs and 1 T20I. He was to stay there till the end of time, until the Australians give up. Pandya, on the other hand, had to swing his bat and wallop the ball. Had both batsmen got into the shell, Australia would have gotten into India s skin. Pandya made sure the kangaroos did not gallop ahead in the race. He romped, and only through sixes. At the receiving end was Adam Zampa. Pandya showed very little respect to the leg-spinners guile.

A century was on the cards, but the very approach brought an end to Pandya s heroics.

With Pandya gone, Dhoni took the centre stage and collected his first boundary after 66 deliveries. Even so, he ended with 79 runs off 88 runs. The man runs fast and, when he does so, he is like a gush of wind. He scored only 28 runs in boundaries, including two prodigious sixes.

Brief scores:

India 281 for 7 (Hardik Pandya 83, MS Dhoni 79; Nathan Coulter-Nile 3 for 44) beat Australia 137 for 9 (DLS) in 21 overs (Glenn Maxwell 39; Yuzvendra Chahal 3 fo 30, Hardik Pandya 2 for 28) by 26 runs.

Man of the Match: Hardik Pandya

Full scorecard