Peter Handscomb’s maiden century and a remarkable knock by Ashton Turner led Australia to its greatest one-day international chase in history to defeat India in Chandigarh.
Set a target of 359 the Australia beat the odds to reel in the chase with 13 balls to spare for a four-wicket win Monday morning (Australian time) in the fourth ODI.
Turner smashed six sixes to bring up 84 off just 43 balls, completing a victory that suggests Australia’s World Cup defence is in far better shape than most pundits suggest.
The five-match ODI series is now level at 2-2 ahead of the decider in Delhi on Wednesday night.
Virat Kohli described the pitch as a belter after winning Sunday’s toss and he was proven true by a brutal 193-run opening partnership between Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma.
Dhawan (143) and Sharma (95) hammered Australia’s bowlers all over the pint-sized park in a 125-minute onslaught, setting the platform for a total of 9-358 that would have been bigger if not for Pat Cummins’ career-best figures of 5-70.
Australia had never chased down more than 334 to win a one-dayer in their proud history but that record was clinically smashed by Handscomb (117), Usman Khawaja (91) and Turner.
Handscomb and Khawaja, who posted his own maiden ODI ton during the preceding game in Ranchi, put on 192 runs for the third wicket.
Handscomb entered the fray in the fourth over, when Aaron Finch’s second-ball duck and Shaun Marsh’s skittled stumps reduced Australia to 2-12.
The Victorian departed at the start of the 42nd over, guiding his team to a point where they required 88 runs from the final nine overs.
Turner, who made his ODI debut in the series opener and was only called up because of Marcus Stoinis’ thumb injury, stepped up in the same finishing role he’s performed for Perth Scorchers this summer.
A missed stumping from Rishabh Pant, which prompted the crowd to chant the name of rested icon MS Dhoni, gave Turner a chance on 38.
The West Australian took full advantage and showed remarkable composure given the scoreboard and screaming crowd, which were left shellshocked as India dropped their bundle plus catches when Turner was on 74 and 80.
The result levels the series at 2-2, setting up a pressure-laden decider in Delhi on Wednesday.
Australia’s confidence-boosting performance will likely have far greater significance beyond the current contest.
The victory has given chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns, who said last week he had “18 or 19 names” in mind for the World Cup, plenty to think about as he mulls the 15-man squad that must be submitted to tournament organisers by April 23.
Selectors must axe two batsmen in the current squad to accommodate Steve Smith and David Warner’s expected return.
Khawaja now has 283 runs for the series, seven short of Kohli, and it’s hard to see how the stylish left-hander will be left out of the World Cup squad.
Handscomb and Turner also showcased their credentials in astonishing style.