For those who thought Australia are likely pushovers in the seven-match series against world champions India, the George Bailey-led team proved on Sunday that even if they are up against a side stronger than them, they will give the hosts a run for money. The convincing manner in which the Australians crushed the Indians by 72 runs in the first One-Day International (ODI) at Pune indicates that the seven-match rubber is going to be tightly contested — if Australia sustain the good performance and form they have shown.
Australia’s all-round performance has set the tone early on for the tourists and they deserve full marks for it. Not many had tipped Australia to outplay India the way they did in the very first game of the one-day series. This win would surely lift the mood in the Australian camp, which is coming after a disappointing loss in the one-off Twenty20 against India.
George Bailey – the Man of the Match
If there was one player who truly deserved the Man of the Match award, it was the Australian captain Bailey. The 31-year-old Tasmanian showed impressive leadership on the field to guide his team to a big win, and also contributed heavily with the bat to help his side set a daunting target of 305 against a star-studded Indian batting line-up. While the wickets kept tumbling at regular intervals, Bailey, who scored a match-winning 85 off 82 balls, was involved in various partnerships that totalled 151 at the lower middle-order.
With their batting mainstay Michael Clarke missing the tour due to injury, the Australians were a worried lot with regard to finding a batsman who could fill into his role. But with Bailey putting up a strong batting performance at Pune, Australia’s worries have somewhat eased. The right-handed batsman showed that applying oneself and batting intelligently on a tricky but a flat wicket would yield results — a lesson which the Indians would surely want to take.
It wasn’t just his contribution with the bat, but his captaincy skills were top-notch and outclassed his counterpart MS Dhoni in few areas. The way Bailey used his bowlers — holding back the fiery Mitchell Johnson in order to use him against Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh, who are well known for their struggle against short bowling. Johnson looked in terrific form notching speed more than 150kmph consistently and troubling the Indian batsmen with bite off the pitch, and the way he set up and dismissed the in-form Yuvraj deserved all applause. While on the other hand, when the Indians failed to make a breakthrough early on in Australia’s innings, Dhoni even sought services of part-timer Virat Kohli.
Australia’s planning and execution was perfect
Not often the Indians suffer batting collapse nowadays in limited-overs formats. Chasing 305 to win, Indian were comfortably seated at 137 for two in the 27th over, but crashed to 232 all-out in 49.4 overs. The way Australia built the pressure and forced the Indian batsmen to make mistakes was commendable, and all this was possible because the tourists had proper plans and executed them perfectly. It was one of those days when everything went well for the Australians.
While Yuvraj fell to the fear of short bowling, Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja struggled against slow balls towards the end. Dhoni failed to pick up Clint McKay on a consistent basis and lost his off-stump on a slower delivery.
McKay, Shane Watson and James Faulkner kept the noose tight on the Indian batsmen for a major part of the game, which was a crucial factor in Australia’s win. Watson and Faulkner in particular looked at ease — certainly they would have been benefitted with experience and acclimatisation that they acquired while playing for the Rajasthan Royals in Champions League Twenty20.
Aaron Finch’s red-hot form is a boon for the Australians, and they would have been delighted the way Phil Hughes batted at the top of the order. Hughes too wasn’t a favourite to score against India, keeping his performance in the Test series earlier this year in mind. But the southpaw showed a glimpse of form; Bailey and stand-in coach Steve Rixon would be delighted.
Australia have drawn first blood, it’s over to India to stage a comeback.