Australian teams since 2003, have enjoyed fair amount of success in ODI cricket in India. Ponting’s team beat India regularly. Even the team in 2009, where Australia kept losing players to injuries throughout the series, but kept winning the matches!! So, it is not a surprise that an Australian team won a bilateral ODI series in India, once again. What makes it surprising is that, the current team came in with such a poor run up to the series and still managed to win it, after being down 0-2. Congratulations to the indomitable spirit of the Australian players.
Australia beat India by 35 runs in Delhi, to clinch the series 3-2. This win will be a big morale booster for the defending World cup champions. What is even more commendable in this game is that their spinners out-bowled the Indian spinners. Kuldeep and Jadeja gave away 119 runs for 3 wickets, while Lyon and Zampa gave away just 80 runs and picked up 4 wickets.
The chatter on social media has been quite inconsiderate to the Aussies on the win. Every match counts and every series counts in international cricket. So, the Indian fans will do well to accept that the Aussies were better and let them enjoy a fair win!!
What worked and what didn’t?
Finch won an important toss and elected to bat first. Delhi pitch is generally slow and low. It also starts to take turn as the game progresses. His batting unit did not let him down.
It was once again Khawaja and Handscomb! It did not help that the Indian new ball bowlers ‘targetted’ Khawaja’s leg stump and he gleefully kept flicking them away for boundaries. Khawaja played some delectable off drives as well against both pace and spin bowlers. Handscomb, meanwhile, continued his dominance over the spin bowlers. He is quick on his feet and uses his sweep shot to good effect. If you notice, most of his sweep shots are brilliantly placed. He invariably hits them for boundaries. The duo laid a solid platform, once again, to take the Aussies to 170 odd runs in very quick time.
Unlike the Mohali ODI, the middle order did not capitalize on the foundation this time. They did not add too many runs and lost their wickets as well. Richardson and Cummins, combined once again to provide some useful lower order runs. Those 19 runs that were scored in a Bumrah over, boosted up the score and the Aussie morale as well.
The final score of 272 was lot lower that what Aussies could have scored, after being 172 for 1 in 32 overs. But, it only shows how well Khawaja and Handscomb played rather than to blame the middle order batsmen.
A professional performance from the bowling unit. Cummins, my eternal favorite, combined well with Richardson and kept the top order under control. Stoinis picking up Kohli off a rank bad ball, helped the Australian cause immensely. Sometimes, when things are going for you, there is no stopping!!
The real stars to me were the spin duo of Lyon and Zampa. The way Lyon got Pant out and the way Zampa got Jadeja out, were classic spin bowling. Jadeja was beaten by a beautiful wrong’un! They bowled economically as well and never let the Indian batsmen stay in touch with the asking rate.
Finch supported the bowlers with very good field placements. Pant’s wicket was prime example. Finch had a slip fielder for Pant, while Lyon was bowling. Pant, dutifully, edged the ball to the slip fielder. I, sometimes, wonder why players like Pant insist on playing a few dead-bat defenses in limited overs international. It is not their game!!
Well bowled Australia!!
Virat must feel a bit disheartened by the below par display by his strike weapon. Shami was disappointing in this game. It was not his day!
Bhuvi did not start well, either. Shami and Bhuvi fed Khawaja with good length deliveries on the leg side and helped him give a great start to the Aussies!! Bhuvi did recover and finished with 3 wickets, giving away only 48 runs. But, Shami did not manage to do that. He did not get to even finish his full quota of 10 overs.
Bumrah was brilliant through the game, but lost his marbles in that one over where he gave away 19 runs. That unnecessary over throw for a four, showed that Jasprit has a big ego as well!! He couldn’t tolerate being hit for two consecutive fours by a tailender! Despite that one over, Bumrah finished with just 39 runs off his 10 overs. He is a champion bowler!!
Handscomb and Khawaja have figured Kuldeep out. Handscomb, particularly, used his sweep shot to hurt Kuldeep. I think batsmen around the World, will watch and learn from him. Kuldeep’s lack of wickets in his initial spell must have disappointed Kohli. But, these things happen in a LOI game. Kuldeep continued to toss the ball up and kept his chin up, as any spinner should do. His day will come, hopefully in the World Cup.
Batting is where Virat’s problems lie. The top two have not provided big opening partnerships for some time now. Kohli will be concerned. Virat has looked in imperious touch, but top 3 has two other batsmen and they need to make substantial score regularly. However, Virat will retain the top 3 as it is for the World cup.
Now, starts the fuzzy middle. Virat has not allowed anyone to settle down at No.4. Today’s game and pitch asked for Amabati Rayudu to be in the team. But Virat played Pant, instead. I am not sure, how this chop and change will enable India to find answers for this position. Or may be Virat has decided on Amabati Rayudu being the No.4 and just rested him.
Shankar looks good with the bat. But, he seems to lack the patience and experience to build a big innings. He has scored attractive 20s, 30s and 40s, but never kicked on, despite having enough overs left to face. The main problem I see is that he prefers to hit every ball and that too in the air. Like Bradman said, 2 additional runs is not a big reward for the risk you are taking.
My pick of batsmen for first XI is Rohit, Shikar,Virat,Dhoni,Kedar,Rayudu/Pant/Rahul,Pandya/Shankar. In that batting order! I am sure Virat has a similar thought in his mind and will play his best XI in the World cup.
Well done Australia on sweeping the T20 and ODI series in India. It is a commendable achievement for the team that had been down in the dumps for the past 18 months. World cricket needs Australia. Their audience should not be lost.
The experimentation phase is now over. Virat, I don’t think, would have got answers he was looking for. None of the hopefuls like Shankar or Rahul or Pant displayed enough to seal their place. Batting will be India’s Achilles heel in the World Cup. If the pitches turn out to be roads, India might not win this World cup. Ah! the famous last lines!!
For detailed scorecard, please refer to Cricinfo