George Bailey’s Australia fired the first salvo in the seven-match series against India with a 72-win over the hosts at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune. Prakash Govindasreenivasan lists down five of the best plays from the game.
It was not the most ideal debut for the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium as huge crowds turned up to watch Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his team demonstrate dominance against a relatively inexperienced Australian outfit. The result, however, went in favour of the visitors who put in a splendid all-round performance to take a morale-boosting 1-0 lead in the series. Here are five of the best plays from the game:
Setting up Phil Hughes
During the entire Australian innings, if there was any bright moment for the home side, it was this. The Australian openers Phil Hughes and Aaron Finch did well to get their eye in and were starting to settle down on a wicket that had nothing for the bowlers at the start. At 108 for no loss in 18th over, Dhoni turned to his left-arm tweaker Ravindra Jadeja to provide him with the breakthrough. Jadeja bowled his first delivery to the left-handed Hughes who gently flicked the ball — that was pitched on the off-stump and turned into him — towards fine-leg for a couple of runs. Jadeja went back to his run up and bowled an identical delivery. Hughes once again went for the same shot, without realising that Dhoni had silently moved Raina from the off-side and positioned him at leg slip. Hughes came forward, flicked it gently and turned around to see how far it had travelled. To his horror he found Raina stationed at the perfect position, latching on to a good low catch. A good start from Hughes came to an end thanks to a very good tactical move from the opposition skipper.
Mitchell Johnson’s start
Despite putting up 304 on the board, the Australian bowlers would have been wary of the Indian batting line-up. Not very long ago, they failed to defend a 200-plus total in the T20 format and needed a solid start to put the hosts on the back foot. Left-arm pacer Mitchell Johnson provided Bailey with a lot more than the skipper would have anticipated. He started off with a delivery at 147kph and managed to bowl four of the next five in excess of 150kph. The flat wicket had suddenly started showing positive signs for the fast bowlers and Johnson reveled in this situation, with a few added springs in his steps. His first over yielded just two runs and instilled a lot of hope in his skipper’s mind. It set the tone for a disciplined performance from the entire bowling unit, with Johnson leading from the front with sheer pace and steep bounce.
Poking the (opponent’s) eye?
Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin will probably forgive James Faulkner for his ‘poking the eye’ incident after the latter picked up three crucial wickets to help Australia start off with a win. Haddin was forced to leave the field when Faulkner accidentally poked Haddin in the eye during his excited celebration after dismissing Shikhar Dhawan. Faulkner got Australia the first breakthrough with Dhawan’s wicket and probably one of the most important wickets in Suresh Raina. After the bowlers had put enough pressure on Virat Kohli and Raina and restricted the run flow, aggression was always around the corner. Given Raina’s ability to hit the ball out the stadium with remarkable accuracy, Faulkner did well to get the better of the left-handed hard-hitter. Surprisingly, Raina hadn’t scored a singled shot through his favourite mid-wicket region. The first time he chose to go for it was on a length delivery that was bowled outside his off-stump and ended up causing his downfall.
With MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja in the middle, the game was far from over. The asking rate had climbed to nine runs an over but given their ability to hit, Australia were not letting complacency creep in. Even at such a late stage in the innings, Faulkner bent his back and put in a few extra yards of pace in a short-pitched delivery to Jadeja who tried to play a flat-batted pull. Unfortunately for him, he could only play it in the air towards the mid-on region where Bailey did well to complete a good diving catch.
Not a bad stand-in?
With Haddin opting to go off the field for some treatment on his eye, Phil Hughes had to fill in behind the stumps. While he fumbled a couple of throws from the out-field and did not look very comfortable with the wicketkeeper’s gloves on, Hughes did well to take two important catches behind the stumps.
The first one was of Rohit Sharma, who was off to a good start but an attempted late cut saw the end of his stay at the wicket. Rohit tried to guide the ball cheekily past the ‘keeper, but to his surprise Hughes was alert enough to take a good high catch to help Australia pick up an important wicket.
The game snatcher
Wickets tumbled, the asking rate climbed and yet, India were hanging on to the game till Dhoni was in the middle. His task was cut out. He needed to score at close to 10 runs an over in the last 10 overs to take his side home after they struggled throughout the innings. India needed a lot more than a Dhoni miracle to save the game. The day had belonged to the visitors till that point in time and there was no twist in the script further as well, as Clint McKay bowled a peach of a delivery to knock back Dhoni’s off-stump and virtually end India’s chances.