India has secured their place as the Aussie Cricket League’s first finalist.
But eight overs into their clash with Australia, they were at tremendously long odds to come out on top.
The Indian side was in complete disarray, having slumped to 5-18 as ball after ball painstakingly lobbed into the waiting hands of Australia’s fielders.
Luke Shelton’s left-arm orthodox had been called upon to open the bowling, and Vishesh Bansal picked out long on with the second ball of the game.
It would be a sign of things to come, as dot ball after dot ball piled up until India’s batsmen had no option but to ‘hit out or get out.’
‘Get out’ more often than not the ensuing consequence.
Shelton would bowl three overs in the powerplay, his figures 2-6 by the end of the fifth over.
Josh Dowling (1-20 off three overs) also snagged an early wicket, while Blade Baxter (3-17 off four) claimed two scalps from his first two overs.
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Vishal Thind (39 off 42 balls) and Tej Gandhi (39* off 36) consolidated superbly however, putting on 76 for the sixth wicket and taking the spring out of Australia’s step as they scrapped their way to a respectable total of 6-107.
Reflecting on his innings post-match, Gandhi revealed he “didn’t think anything about (being 5-18).”
“I just had one thought and that was stick there until the 15th over, and then assess the game again after 15 overs,” Gandhi said.
Despite the lesser target, Australia faltered with bat in hand, struggling to build partnerships as they mustered 7-97, falling nine runs short.
Lachlan Brown (8) was the first Australian to fall, before Shelton (11) and Ryan Quirk were bowled in quick succession by Gandhi and Abhishek Jain respectively, reducing the Aussies to 3-26 in the eighth over.
Gandhi would finish with 3-7 from his three overs, claiming the wickets of Jarrad Dowling and Mick Sweeney in consecutive balls to thrust India into the box seat.
That bowling performance, along with his unbeaten 39, earnt Gandhi player of the match honours for the second game running as he continues to take the competition by storm.
Matt Chasemore’s presence at the crease kept Australia with a fighting chance, and he was briefly afforded the opportunity to bat with his 15-year-old son Callum.
The rapid Satnam Grewal (2-13 off four) wasn’t in a romantic mood however, skittling Matt Chasemore (27 off 28) to bring the father-son partnership to a close and leave Australia on the ropes at 7-72 with three overs remaining.
The young pairing of Isaiah Jassal (17* off 10) and Callum Chasemore (13* off 18) was ultimately left too much to do, but that’s not to say they didn’t go down swinging, Jassal taking Anurag Dhaliwal for six over cover in the final over.
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Speaking on the result post-match, Australia XI captain Matt Chasemore praised India’s performance.
“(India bowled) fantastic, the spinners were fantastic,” Chasemore said.
He was less pleased with his own side however, but took pride in the showings of his two young players.
“When the field spreads you sort of add about 70 runs to the score straight away, even if you are bowling well. I thought they were gonna get about 115 or thereabouts. It’s gettable.
“You’d like to think you win a lot of games if the opposition scores 115, so a little bit disappointing.
“I brought the two young boys in, the two 15-year-olds (Brodie Matthews and Callum Chasemore). Brodes got an over in amongst all that and did quite well, and young Cal ended up with 15-odd not out.
“Cal would never have faced anything like those boys today, so proud effort for those boys but disappointing for us older ones.”
On the other hand, India XI skipper Ashish Matthews was understandably ecstatic.
“Absolutely brilliant game. This is the kind of character and maturity we expect from this bunch of players. 5-20 and then to reach 107, that was an exceptional effort,” Matthews said.
“They’d all (batted) in the middle, they’d seen that the wicket was tough to bat, and we have an exceptional bunch of talented youngsters as medium pacers and good spinners as well.
“We knew we could defend it any day.”