Australia's 2-year ODI losing streak ends in New Delhi
For those Australian cricket fans who stayed up until the early hours to watch their team's series-ending one-day international against India, a semi-sleepless night was worth it.
Australia's 35-run win at the first-boisterous but later subdued Feroz Shah Kotla Ground in New Delhi ended a two-year losing streak in one-day international series.
Better yet, it was a stirring comeback after trailing 2-0 in the five-match series against one of the World Cup favorites. It was India's first series loss at home since October 2015 and Australia's first ODI series win in India in a decade.
All of which left India captain Virat Kohli, never one to heap too much praise on his opponents, almost gushing in his praise of Australia.
"They were more composed in pressure moments," Kohli said. "They were more positive and brave in the pressure situations, and hence they won those important moments in the game. And when you capitalize on probably every important moment that comes in the game as a side, it gets very difficult to go past that side."
With Australia's defense of its World Cup title just two months away, the series win couldn't have come at a better time. The Australians have one more ODI series — five matches against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates — before the World Cup starts in England in late May.
Two of Australia's star players — ex-captain Steve Smith and opener David Warner — are expected to return to the squad for the World Cup after serving 12-month suspensions for their part in a ball-tampering scandal during a test match in Cape Town, South Africa in March 2018.
Optimism, it seems, has replaced the despair of just a few months ago.
Despite being defending and five-time World Cup winners, the Australians finished their 2018 ODI matches with a loss in Hobart to South Africa, part of a 2-1 series defeat and their 13th ODI loss of the year. Australia won just two ODI matches last year, the fewest ODI victories since 1978 when it played only two one-day internationals.
Their poor form continued with a 2-1 series loss to India at home to start the year before their comeback series win on Wednesday night in New Delhi. It was India which started Australia's losing streak two years ago, beating them 2-1 in India.
Usman Khawaja's century led the visitors after captain Aaron Finch won the toss and decided to bat, Australia scoring 272-9. In reply, Rohit Sharma top-scored with 56 but India lost Shikhar Dhawan (12) and Kohli (20) cheaply, which cost them the game.
"It's unbelievable," Finch said. "The resilience and the fight that we showed was incredible ... I'm really proud of the group for coming back."
Now it's off to the U.A.E. and the first ODI against Pakistan in Sharjah on March 22. The teams will play five matches in 10 days ending with the final game on March 31 in Dubai.
In Dubai, Australian media has reported, Smith and Warner will have a "reintegration meeting" with players and staff in an early attempt to clear the air over the ball-tampering scandal. It should be a much more pleasant get-together after the end of the ODI series losing streak.