“It was never going to be easy chasing 160 with two new balls. I think 160 with one new ball would have made things a lot easier,” Smith said on Sunday (September 17). “When you have two new balls from both ends, as you saw the whole game, we took three wickets with the new ball and they found it quite hard. It was the same for us. When you are playing 20 overs, you don’t have a great deal of time to make things up. You need eight an over basically from ball one. It was difficult in that aspect. Perhaps we could have been a little bit more defensive at the start, keep wickets in hand and went harder later.”
Incidentally, the impediments built between Australia and a series lead were all their own doing. After a bright start to the game courtesy of Nathan Coulter-Nile and Pat Cummins’s opening burst, the visitors let the initiative slip away with the backup bowling of Marcus Stoinis and James Faulkner struggling to provide the same level of control and incision. To make matters worse, Smith endured a rare off day in the field, reprieving Rohit Sharma early on and then, more importantly, dropping Hardik when he had only 13 on the board. The all-rounder would go on to club a match-clinching 83 off 66.
“You always want to take your catches,” Smith said. “I obviously dropped one early and one that sort of yorked me as well – the Hardik Pandya’s one, I couldn’t get my hands underneath it. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to capitalise on what was a very good start. 5 for 87 and then I think it was 6 for 206 (205). That partnership [between Dhoni and Pandya] turned out to be a match-winning one. I thought MS and Hardik played very well.
“I think we probably we went away from our plans a little bit. We were hitting such a good length and certainly persisted with that for a while with the good bouncers we were bowling. We were trying too many things, too many slower balls, just not hitting that good hard length we were hitting early on. That partnership changed the game. They put 120 odd (118) and took them from 87 to 206 (205). In the end that proved to be a match-winning partnership.”