For any frontline fast bowler, starting their team’s defence of a target of 161 in a T20 match, at a venue almost notorious for being a batting paradise, by conceding a hat-trick of fours might just seal the fact that they have had a bad day. But not if the bowler is Arshdeep Singh at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday.

Arshdeep Singh came back with a clutch last over while Mukesh Kumar was finally among the wickets in the fifth T20I against Australia

After Shreyas Iyer’s half-century and a late surge from Jitesh Sharma and Axar Patel dragged India to 160/8 batting first in their fifth T20I against Australia, Arshdeep’s stint with the ball started with Travis Head thrashing him for three fours off the first three balls. That over ended up going for 14 runs and it didn’t get much better for the 24-year-old left-arm pacer. Not for a while, at least. He didn’t bowl again in the first 10 overs and returned in the 13th. Arshdeep seemed to be doing well until he missed a yorker off the fifth ball and Ben McDermott hit him for a six over deep point. He conceded another 12 runs in his third over but ended it with dismissing McDermott, who had scored 54 in 36 balls. It turned out to be a crucial moment in the match, with Australia clearing missing the set batter in the last five overs, in which they needed 45 runs to win.

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But Australia captain Matthew Wade found his footing and brought the equation down to his side needing just 10 to win off the last over, which was to be bowled by Arshdeep. He had shipped a total of 37 runs in her three overs and had not managed to keep the concession below 10 throughout the match. However, when the time came, Arshdeep found his mark. He started off with a bouncer and then, finally, nailed the yorker that he had been missing and paying for so many times in the earlier overs. He marginally missed a yorker next ball but it was still a good enough delivery to dismiss Wade and all of a sudden, India were firmly in the driver’s seat. He then followed it up with two searing inswinging full deliveries and then another yorker to close the game out for India. After going at well over 10 an over, Arshdeep conceded just three in the last over and got a wicket. If anybody had doubts over whether the lanky pacer can deliver in those “clutch” moments in international cricket, Arshdeep gave them a glimpse of what he can do.

It is a glimpse that was somewhat sorely needed for Arshdeep’s own sake. His USP in the IPL before making it to the national team had been how difficult he made it for batters to score against him, particularly in the death overs. That has slipped away somewhat for Arshdeep this year. His performance in the Asian Games was a bit of a mixed bag as he conceded 43 runs against Nepal while taking two wickets. In this series, the runs he had conceded in the matches he played in before the fifth T20I was 41, 46 and 44. It has to be noted, though, that the performances by themselves may not be enough to question Arshdeep’s status as a reliable bowler in the death overs but the return of Jasprit Bumrah in the 2023 World Cup meant that anyone hoping to partner India’s premier fast bowler, had to be nothing short of extraordinary, which is exactly the word you might use to describe what Arshdeep did in the last over on Sunday.

Mukesh Kumar makes a mark

Apart from Arshdeep’s show in the final over, the fifth T20I, and indeed the entire series, is one in which Mukesh Kumar showed that he is a serious contender for a spot in the Indian squad that would go to the Caribbean islands next year for the T20 World Cup. In five of the 10 innings in this series, the two teams managed to score more than 200 runs and in two of the five matches, both teams scored over 200. It is in the midst of this that Mukesh averaged 36.50 in the 96 deliveries that he bowled and maintained an economy of 9.12. Wickets haven’t been easy for him to come by for much of his fledgling T20I career. Including the haul on Sunday, Mukesh has just seven wickets in the nine T20Is he has played thus far. However, he has an averge of 37.00 and economy of 8.98. On Sunday, he got the wickets to show for his efforts, ending with a career-best figures of 3/32. He got the first wicket of the Australian innings in the form of Josh Philippe and then dismissed Matthew Short and Ben Dwarshuis off consecutive deliveries in the 17th over.

The first T20I of this series was all about sixes and fireworks from batters in both teams, with India rewriting their highest successful run chase against Australia in the format by knocking down a target of 209. What was also noticed by a lot of eagle-eyed fans and commentators in that game was that Mukesh conceded just five runs in the last over and ended up giving away just 29 runs in four overs. He had an economy of 7.25 and the next best among pacers, Indian or Australian, was Arshdeep with 10.25.

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