Australian skipper George Bailey led from the front (85 off 82 balls) after Aaron Finch‘s good start (72 off 79 balls) to help the visitors post 304 for eight against India in the first One-Day International (ODI) against Australia in the new Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Sunday.
It was a day when a lean and fit Yuvraj Singh could not be kept out of action for too long. He picked up a couple of wickets, took a couple of good catches and forced and excellent run out and even reclaimed his old fielding position at backward point.
On a hot day in Pune, Bailey did not think twice before deciding to bat first after winning the toss. The wicket too looked flat but MS Dhoni suggested he would have bowled first anyway.
Australian openers Finch and Phil Hughes started rather cautiously, scoring just 14 runs in the first six overs. Finch, whose carnage in the Rajkot T20 helped Australia post a total in excess of 200, seemed a completely different player as he managed just two runs in his first 20 deliveries. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Vinay Kumar started well before Finch broke the monotony of singles and dot balls by whacking a full length delivery over the long on fence. Bhuvneshwar pitched up the following delivery and this time Finch found the gap through covers to collect a boundary. The over finished with 15 runs as Finch picked up another four with a shot through midwicket.
Hughes, then, complemented Finch by picking up two fours in the following over from Vinay Kumar. Australia put on 50 without the loss of any wicket in the first 10 overs, with Finch and Hughes starting to see the ball much better.
Dhoni then brought Ravichandran Ashwin into the attack. The off-spinner who was taken apart in the Rajkot T20 started on a bright not with just three runs in the over. However, Finch started the over with a powerful hit over deep mid-wicket for a six and picked up a boundary through backward point to end the 10-run over.
Still in search of his wicket, Dhoni tried to mix things up by bring Virat Kohli into the attack in the 18th over. Finch gets a slow leg-cutter first up and guides it past short third man to bring up his half-century.
It was Jadeja’s slow-left arm bowling that brought about the first breakthrough through an interesting move from Dhoni in the 19th over. Just when the batsmen showed clear indication of having settled down by swapping their helmets with caps, Hughes nudged a delivery down the leg side without realising that Dhoni had move Raina from the first slip to the leg side. The Indian Southpaw did very well to collect a low catch to send back Hughes for a well-made 47.
Shane Watson, Australia’s No 3, failed to trouble the scorers as he walked in and out of the field in a jiffy. When Dhoni introduced Yuvraj into the attack, Watson went after him straightaway and failed to clear Jadeja at long on.
Bailey joined Finch in the middle with spin operating from both ends. Jadeja and Yuvraj gave very little away and their disciplined bowling brought about the downfall of the dangerous Finch. In a bid to up the scoring rate, Finch went after Yuvraj who offered a juicy flighted delivery. However, the Australian opener hit it straight down Virat Kohli’s throat at long off. Finch departed for 72 from 79 deliveries.
With Adam Voges for company, skipper Bailey set about on a mission to regain momentum after Finch’s wicket put India on top. India hit back when Yuvraj’s exception effort on the field left Voges short of his ground. A direct hit from Yuvraj sent Voges packing and Australia were down to 172 for four in the 32nd over.
Big-hitting batsman Glenn Maxwell joined his skipper in his pursuit of recovery. During their partnership of 42 from just six overs, Bailey brought up his half-century and Maxwell displayed his prowess of clearing the ground. He punished poor bowling from the likes of Ashwin and Vinay Kumar by dispatched deliveries into the stands. The duo called for the batting powerplay in the 35th over and Dhoni turned to Vinay Kumar. In his second over during the powerplay, Maxwell put all his might behind a shot for a six behind square and over cover but played one shot too many. Attempting the third six of the over, Maxwell ended up playing it straight into the hands of Rohit Sharma at covers to bring an end to his cameo of 31 from just 23 deliveries.
Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was the next man in but he too didn’t last long, giving Ashwin his first wicket. Ashwin bowled a flat delivery with a few extra yards of pace. Haddin tried to stay in the crease and guide to the leg-side and failed as the ball struck him in line on the knee roll. At this stage, Australia were 231 for six in the 43rd over with Bailey on 59, running out of partners.
James Faulkner gave his skipper some good company as Bailey went about playing his shots. He welcomed Bhuvneshwar Kumar for his final spell with two boundaries — first past mid-wicket and then behind square.
Ashwin brought an end to Bailey’s fine innings of 85 but some powerful hitting from Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson and Clint McKay helped Australia go past the 300-run mark.
Australia 304 for 8 in 50 overs (Aaron Finch 72, George Bailey 85; Yuvraj Singh 2 for 34, Ravichandran Ashwin 2 for 55) vs India