Australia take an unassailable lead after a repeat performance from the first ODI

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29 Nov 2020 | 03:11 AM
authorSomesh Agarwal

Australia take an unassailable lead after a repeat performance from the first ODI

Steve Smith scored a 62-ball 100 yet again as India fell short by 51 runs

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A century opening partnership, a 62-ball hundred for Steve Smith, a Glenn Maxwell blitz, clueless Indian bowling and well behind the chase throughout the innings. It was a Control C, Control V from the first ODI. The only real difference being that after all the conversations around the sixth bowling option, India deployed seven. 

Hardik Pandya broke a dry spell of over a year to finally bowl in international cricket and was the only effective bowler on the night for India. Mayank Agarwal chipped in with an uninspiring over as well.

Australia managed to score 15 more runs from the day before to hand India a target of 390. While a few Indian batsmen put their hands up, a barrage of dot balls never allowed India to keep up with the asking rate despite regular boundaries. In the end, they fell 51 runs short to hand Australia an unassailable 2-0 victory.

The difference in bowling plans

While the Australian bowlers tried slower balls, wide yorkers and cross seamers, their Indian counterparts were just feeding the ball to the batsmen. There was no Plan B for India’s seamers while they were getting no help from the surface.    

As Virat Kohli and Aaron Finch revealed later, it was a four-over spell from Hardik that showed the way to bowl on this pitch. While he was the most effective of India’s pacers, the same turned out to be the case with Moises Henriques, who came in for an injured Marcus Stoinis. Using frequent off-cutters, Henriques bowled seven overs giving away only 34 runs and also picking a wicket.

Lack of consistency and street smartness from the bowlers was compounded by some strange decision making.

While Navdeep Saini was running in to bowl the 34th over, a stat popped up on the screen stating that no Indian pacer bowled three overs in a row. Whether this is the inherent impatience brought about by T20 cricket or a plan to not allow the batsmen to line up a bowler, this did not work for India.

They even baffled everyone with the choice of the bowler for the last over. With Mohammed Shami having an over left and Hardik using the deck well, Kohli went with Saini who was already the weakest link in India's bowling. He fed Maxwell with full tosses that resulted in two sixes and made us wonder about the lack of instinct and the reading of the game in the current leadership group.

Lack of strike-rotation from India

India played 146 dot balls in the first game where they fell short by 66 runs. Tonight, they played 122 dot balls in comparison to Australia’s 105 while hitting six boundaries less. By the 40th over and India had already crossed Australia's tally of dot balls. Some singles between boundaries and India would have been better placed. 

Chasing a huge total India had 12 overs with runs in double digits as compared to Australia’s 19. An example to indicate the lack of rotation came later in the innings when Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul hit three sixes, one each in overs 37-39, all off the three main Aussie pacers. But even then, two of these overs yielded runs in single digits.

Australia were off to a flier

The two Australian openers scored 51 runs in the first 10 overs in the first ODI. They bettered it in the second, scoring 59. It was again a problem of not bowling tight channels for a sustained period for India. There was a boundary ball or two sprayed across in most overs that kept India devoid of an early wicket.

Even a slight waywardness was enough for David Warner who looked imperious during his knock and will be gutted to miss out on a hundred. Encouraged from Warner's exposed weakness from that angle, Indian bowlers tried bowling round the wicket to him. It did trouble his a bit early on but made no difference once he had his eye in.

After a tight start by Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, it was a surprise that Saini ran in to bowl the fifth over. Warner welcomed him by pulling a dispassionate half-tracker over the leg side fence. Solving the mystery behind the bowling change, Shami replaced Bumrah in the next over. Warner continued to be dominant on Saini whom he hit for two boundaries in his second over. 

After four good balls in the eighth over, Shami too erred and Warner was happy to oblige to hit a boundary each on both sides of the wicket. The first one was probably the shot of the game. Warner seemed like waiting for a 140+ delivery and when it arrived, he got into position and unleashed a jab past the fielder at mid-on.  

Finch played second fiddle to Warner as the duo added 140 runs for the opening wicket in their third century stand in a row at home. The pair was brutal even on Yuzvendra Chahal, hitting him for three sixes over the fielder at long-on - two by Warner and one by Finch. Even the attempted bouncers by Bumrah and Shami were no answers for Finch who pulled those for four with ease.

Having toiled hard for almost half the innings, India managed to see the back of Finch. On an attempted yorker from Shami, Finch got a leading edge to a flick to Kohli at extra cover. 

While Warner has provided a great start to Australia in both games, he walked out of the field due to an injured groin. As we wait for his scan results, the Aussies must be hoping that the injury is not severe to hamper his participation as more important matches beckon.

Smith’s brilliance and Maxwell’s blitz

As he stated in the last games, Smith found his hands again. While the innings in the first game did offer India some chances, his innings in this game was chanceless, something he iterated himself later on.  

Smith made his ambitions clear with a straight drive off Shami in the 25th over to get going. In his first seven overs, Ravindra Jadeja did not concede a boundary. Smith changed that in his eighth, carving him through the offside for a four and then unleashed a slog sweep for a six in the same over.

He followed it up with two boundaries in the next over - the 31st of the innings - by Saini. Moving across on both occasions he hit him down the ground first up and then glanced him to the fine leg fence.

Neither Shami nor Bumrah had any answers for Smith who hit them for five boundaries in overs 39 and 40. While it was off the cover drive against Shami, he toyed with Bumrah, using his hands to find three different gaps with precision.

In bizarre randomness of bowling spells throughout the day, Chahal came back to bowl his ninth over in a one-over spell that was the over number 41. Smith launched into him to hit a six down the ground before completing his century in the same over.

Soon after his century, Hardik got his outside edge off a wide ball that went to the fielder at short third. Playing alongside Smith first and Maxwell later, Marnus Labuschagne scored a half-century without getting noticed but with orthodox cricket shots.  

Maxwell was at his best thumping slow bouncers over the leg side fence, hitting full balls over covers. If the ball was short outside off he hit a switch hit to the third man, if it was fuller he unleashed a reverse ramp to the same region. The Aussies scored 114 runs in the last 10 overs to leave India another mountain to climb.

Kohli and Rahul among the runs

For a while, it seemed like a budding nightmare for the Australian bowlers as well before they pulled things back in the eighth and ninth over. Both Mayank and Shikhar Dhawan started off scoring boundaries at will.

The Aussies struck twice to seize the momentum back in their favour. Early in the eighth over, Dhawan mistimed a pull that almost carried to deep square. Itching to collect a boundary Dhawan shuffled across to clip the ball on the leg. Josh Hazlewood slipped the first off those wider which Dhawan had to defend. To the second he got a leading edge to offer a sitter to midwicket.

Seeing Hazlewood hit the right areas, Pat Cummins found his groove as well. After beating Mayank earlier in the over, he tested him again in the channel with a cross seamed delivery that took his outside edge.

As expected, Hazlewood tested Shreyas Iyer with the short ball. There was a duck, a signature 'make room and hit over cover' and a play and miss all in the same over to those balls. He found a rhythm when the spinners and part-time bowlers were operating as he put a decent 93-run stand along with Kohli. Acting as a wall at midwicket, Smith brought Iyer’s downfall, flying to his right to grab a good catch in the 24th over by Henriques. 

It is strange that while the Aussie pacers operated, Kohli batted with flair. But, he became sedate once the part-timers and spinners came in. He pulled Cummins over the fine leg in the 13th over that although was top-edge, it cleared the fence with ease. He followed it up by a crisp straight drive to him in the 15th. 

Nearing his fifty, Kohli stepped on the gas and pulled Maxwell in the 22nd and Zampa in the 23rd to hit collect two fours. Bowling in this series continued to be a nightmare for Mitchell Starc. After an expensive first spell, Kohli welcomed him in the 26th over with a clip that went a few rows back over the square leg fence. Rahul too hit a crisp cut for four in the same over.

In the 35th over, Kohli fell in a similar manner to the first ODI. While he timed a shortish ball from Hazlewood better, Henriques at midwicket flew to his left to grab the ball. It was not before Kohli scored an impressive 89 that would have looked even better had India been better placed in the match.

With India needing 131 in the last 10, Cummins bowled an exceptional over number 41 that tested Hardik Pandya on wide yorkers. The over when India needed more than 13 runs an over went for one that came off a wide. 

Rahul tried his best, smoking Josh Hazlewood and Adam Zampa in the last 10 overs for sixes but could not carry on as he top-edged the leggie to short third.

There was some entertainment later on as Starc continued to have a torrid time. He had Hardik caught at long on the first ball of the 46th over but it turned out that he had overstepped. After smashing the free hit over the leg side fence, Jadeja repeated the same a ball later for a similar result.

Cummins pulled the curtains on India's innings after getting Hardik and Jadeja caught on consecutive balls in the next over. With an ODI left with series sealed, India have a lot of questions to answer throughout this series.

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Virat KohliSteven Peter Devereux SmithDavid Andrew WarnerAaron James FinchGlenn James MaxwellKannaur Lokesh RahulMoises Constantino HenriquesIndiaAustraliaIndia tour of Australia, 2020/21

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