Sydney, Jan 31 (IANS) Shane Watson scored a superb unbeaten century (86-ball 124 not out) to power Australia to 197 for five against India in the third and final Twenty20 International (T20I) at the Sydney Cricket Ground here on Sunday.
Watson, making his debut as captain in T20I, milked six sixes — three off Ravindra Jadeja and two off Ashish Nehra — and 10 fours during his maiden ton as the Indian bowlers conceded 117 runs in the final 10 overs.
It was also the first time India gave away a hundred to an opposition batsman in the shortest format.
Trailing 0-2 in the series, Australia came up with the scratch opening pair of Watson and Usman Khawaja as regular batsmen David Warner, Aaron Finch and Steve Smith did not play either due to injury or because they were being rested for the forthcoming series against New Zealand.
The hosts didn’t get a good start as in-form Khawaja was dismissed for 14 with the right-hander edging an Ashish Nehra delivery to wicket-keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the third over.
However, experienced Watson, dropped from the One-Day International (ODI) series, showed why he is still a force to reckon with and didn’t allow his team to feel the pressure as he kept punishing the Indian bowlers.
He dispatched left-arm pacer Nehra for a six over midwicket boundary and in the next over, bowled by Jasprit Bumrah, hit two fours.
The veteran right-hander continued his aggression with two back-to-back boundary hits off Nehra as he played a crucial role in a 50-run partnership with Shaun Marsh, who took his time.
Left-hander Marsh (9) had his stumps shattered when he went for a mistimed slog sweep.
Marsh’s wicket, with Australia at 69 for two in 7.4 overs, brought ‘Big Show’ Glenn Maxwell (6) to the crease. The right-hander hardly troubled the scorers and holed out at short cover to Suresh Raina off Yuvraj Singh’s bowling.
Travis Head then joined Watson in the middle and provided the muscle and power-hitting required for a partnership. He despatched Yuvraj for a six and a four to boost his captain’s faith as the partnership flourished, with Watson on a song.
Watson also benefitted from India’s generosity. He was batting on 56 and on the second ball of the 12th over, he mishit a wide ball from Hardik Pandya towards Virat Kohli, who spilled the catch at deep cover. Watson cracked two fours in the same over.
In the 14th over, skipper Dhoni failed to collect a throw from Pandya, failing to run Watson out as the batsman tried to complete his second run.
Watson made India pay as he hit two sixes off left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and one off Ashwin before completing his maiden hundred in 58 balls.
After the hundred, he again hit Jadeja for a six and one off Nehra as his team scored 117 runs in the final 10 overs taking the total to 197 for five.