Questions are starting to mount over Australia’s white-ball depth after their second-stringers have failed to fire in India.
With a side featuring mainly fringe candidates for next year’s World Cup squad, only established stars Travis Head and Matthew Wade made decent contributions with the bat as the Aussies fell shot in their run-chase.
India exacted some belated retribution for their World Cup heartbreak with their spinners spearheading a series-sealing 20-run victory over a much-changed Australia in the fourth Twenty20 at Raipur.
After being sent in, India lost five wickets for seven runs from their last nine balls to stumble to 9-174 on Friday (Saturday AEDT) before bouncing back to restrict Australia to 7-154 and move into an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series.
Captain Matthew Wade (36no) swung hard late after World Cup final hero Travis Head (31) made a typically fast start, but Australia were tied down in-between by tweakers Axar Patel (3-16) and Ravi Bishnoi (1-17).
With the venue relying on generators to power the floodlights due to unpaid electricity bills, Australia made a high-voltage start, motoring to 0-40 from three overs, before the introduction of spin twins Patel and Bishnoi – the series’ two leading wicket-takers – completely changed the complexion of the chase.
Legspinner Bishnoi started the 3-12 burst when he castled Josh Philippe (8) before Patel removed dangerman Head – top-edging a slog sweep to Mukesh Kumar – and Aaron Hardie (8).
Patel then switched ends and bowled Ben McDermott (19) before Tim David (19) and Matt Short (22) holed out.
That left Wade, the supporting act in the Glenn Maxwell show at Guwahati two nights earlier, with too much to do by himself with the asking rate spiralling.
“We just didn’t play the spin very well through the middle,” Wade said.
“They got hold of us in the fourth and fifth over and they didn’t really let go.
“Some areas to tidy up, especially against the spin.”
It was a very different looking Australia team to take the field for the penultimate match, with offspinner Chris Green coming in for his debut, while Philippe, McDermott and Ben Dwarshuis were also given a chance, with Maxwell and fellow World Cup winners Marcus Stoinis and Josh Inglis having returned home.
In the Indian innings, Dwarshuis (3-40) and his fellow left-arm seamer Jason Behrendorff (2-32) produced a clatter of late wickets to cap Australia’s best bowling performance of the series.
Rinku Singh (46) top-scored for a young India side, who looked on track for a total closer to 200 before their calamitous last nine balls.
Opener Yashasvi Jaiswal (37) was the early aggressor before his downfall sparked a 3-13 top-order tremble.
Shreyas Iyer (8) followed before captain Suryakumar Yadav (1) nicked off, presenting Dwarshuis with his maiden T20I wicket.
Ruturaj Gaikwad (32) was regularly starved of the strike before falling victim to wrist-spinner Tanveer Sangha (2-30).
Rinku and Jitesh Sharma (35) added 56 quick runs for the fifth wicket and threatened to put India in total command.
Jitesh’s departure, lofting Dwarshuis to Head on the boundary in the 19th over, set in motion the late collapse with five wickets falling in 11 deliveries as Behrendorff bowled a fine death over for just six runs as three wickets tumbled.
The fifth and final match of the series is at Bengaluru on Sunday (Monday AEDT)