Suresh Raina giving the Indian middle-order the finishing touch: Suresh Raina on Sunday justified that he is the most valuable T20 player for India with a perfect finishing touch in the T20I series against Australia, helping India defeat them and complete a ‘white wash’.
Being unceremoniously dropped from the ODI squad for the Australian tour, based (only) on his lacklustre show against the South African home series late last year, Raina sent a clear message to the ‘men who matter’ in BCCI that he is not the one to be ‘messed around with’ in the limited over format.
Coming in to bat at the fall of Dhawan’s (5) wicket with the team score reading 41/2 in 4.5 overs, in the first encounter at Adelaide, Raina, in the company of Virat Kohli, went on to establish a partnership of 134 runs in 14.3 overs for the third-wicket (the best partnership for any wicket in the match) and was instrumental in India putting up a total of 188 runs for the loss of 3 wickets in 20 overs, with Kohli scoring an unbeaten 90* (his career-best T20I score) runs off 55 deliveries with 9 fours and 2 sixes.
Facing 34 deliveries, being at the crease for 63 minutes, Raina scored 41 runs with the help of 3 fours and a six. He fell at the team score of 175 runs for the loss of 3 wickets in 19.2 overs.
The Indian bowlers did well to restrict the opposition to 151 runs with only Aaron Finch scoring a meaningful 44 runs.
India won the match and took 1-0 lead in the series.
Thanks to a great opening partnership between Rohit Shama (60) and Shikhar Dhawan (42) of 97 runs in 11 overs, a second wicket partnership of 46 runs in 5 overs, between Rohit and Virat Kohli (59*) and finally a third-wicket partnership of 38 runs in 3.4 overs between Kohli and MS Dhoni (14), Raina came in to bat at the penultimate delivery of the innings, in the second game at MCG and had to stay put at the non-striker’s end.
Having set up a target of 185 runs, Indian bowlers were successful in defending the same and went up 2-0 in the series.
Raina got his opportunity to re-establish his supremacy in the shortest format of the game at Sydney where India took on the hosts for the third and final clash. Having won the series with the 2-0 lead, Team India wanted to go for a complete white-wash of the Aussies, which would be a great achievement.
For a change, Team India got an opportunity to chase a target and it was a wonderful chase at the end.
Australia, led by their skipper, Shane Watson, scored really big and set up a target of 198 for the Indians. Watson scored an unbeaten 124* runs off just 71 deliveries with 10 fours and 6 sixes. He single-handedly took all the Indian bowlers ‘to the cleaners’.
Losing Dhawan (26) in the second delivery of the third over with the score reading 46/1, Rohit Sharma (52) and Virat Kohli (50) put up a partnership of 78 runs in 9.1 overs (the second best partnership for any wicket in the match) and took the team to the position of 124/2 in 12.3 overs when Sharma departed.
Raina walked in to join Kohli and they together added another 23 runs in 2.2 overs when Kohli unfortunately ‘played on’ a Cameron Boyce delivery to his stumps.
Yuvraj Singh joined Raina in the middle. This was the first opportunity in the series, that came Yuvraj’s way to wield the bat. He took four deliveries to open his account. Meanwhile Raina, by the end of the 17th over, had scored 28 runs off 15 deliveries with 3 fours and a huge six which he scored off Boyce in the last delivery of the 13th over.
From 164/3 in the 17th over, India added 12 more runs in the 18th over, all of them (including two boundaries) being added by Raina, who moved from 28 runs to 40 runs.
At 181/3 in the beginning of the 20th over, India needed 17 runs from six deliveries. It looked possible with Raina striking the ball well.
Andrew Tye was given the responsibility of bowling final over of the match with Yuvraj on 5 runs facing him.
The first delivery was dispatched to the boundary while the second one was sent even beyond. The third delivery resulted in a BYE, bring the required runs to 6 runs from 3 deliveries. This cross-over also brought Raina on to strike.
Raina did strike. He took two runs each of the next two deliveries and brought down the runs required to a mere 2 runs off the final delivery. A single off the last ball would have ended the match in a tie, calling for a ‘super over’ decider.
However, the ace finisher Raina, sent the final delivery to the boundary and completed the white wash of the Australians at their own backyard. This is no mean achievement.
Raina, yet again proved that he is a prolific finisher of games in the limited overs format.
Maybe if Raina would have been a part of the Indian Playing XI in the ODI series, the 1-4 outcome in favour of Australia, could have been the other way round.
Did the ‘wise men’ in BCCI have a ‘blackout’ of their wisdom while choosing the ODI squad?
Maybe they did and this T20I series would be an ‘eye-opener’ for them.