JANUARY 12, 2019
Brief Scorecard: Australia 5 for 288 (Handscomb 73, Khawaja 59, S Marsh 54) v India beat India 254 for 9 (Rohit 133, Dhoni 51, Richardson 4-26) by 34 runs
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – They just needed a new kit. Despite a fine century from Rohit Sharma, Australia ripped up the form book with a 34-run victory in the first ODI at the SCG. Jhye Richardson bowled superbly to take 4 for 26, which ensured a solid if unspectacular display from their Test match turned one-day top order was enough for a much-needed win.
After ODI debutant Jason Behrendorff struck with his sixth ball, Richardson claimed two wickets in three balls in his second over, the first of them Virat Kohli, as India crashed to 3 for 4 inside four overs in their chase of 289. Rohit kept them in the contest with his 22nd ODI century, adding 137 for the fourth wicket with MS Dhoni 28 overs. The former India captain made 51, but consumed 96 balls, a knock that will again be polarizing.
Dhoni was unluckily lbw to Behrendorff – India had burned their review – with the target still distant. As well as Rohit played, the asking rate kept rising beyond what was achievable. Richardson returned to take out Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja in a performance that will have gone a long way to locking in a World Cup trip. Rohit kept India alive, until Marcus Stoinis nailed him to effectively kill the contest.
The recalled Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb made half-centuries. Handscomb played the most free-flowing knock of an Australia innings that lumbered along for lengthy periods, as did Shaun Marsh but India’s attack was never dominated. However, 94 runs off the last 10 overs lifted them to a competitive 288.
That looked a huge total after just 23 balls of the chase. Australia wasted their review five balls into the innings when they challenged an lbw against Rohit that pitched outside leg, but Behrendorff didn’t have to wait long when he pinned Shikhar Dhawan next ball.
Richardson has had a brief taste of ODI cricket and showed promise on debut against England in Brisbane before struggling in the return series, but has remained close to Australia honours at all levels. His ball to Kohli was on the pads and most days would have whistled to the fence, but instead it was clipped straight to square leg where Stoinis held on with a wobble.
Maybe the wheel is turning? Two balls later and it was all down to Richardson’s pace as he was too quick for Ambati Rayudu, spearing one into his pads to win the lbw – the review would prove costly for Dhoni.
India had no choice but to try and consolidate after being reduced to 21 for 3 at the 10-over mark, the only moment of aggression coming from Rohit when he got just enough on a free hit to earn a six to deep square leg. India had four sixes before their first four, which did not arrive until the 21st when Dhoni carved Peter Siddle through point.
The recovery was dominated by Rohit and such was the work of the partnership that by the 30-over mark India were only five runs behind Australia at the same stage. When Dhoni drilled Stoinis through mid-on to reach his half-century, there was a sense something could be brewing, but Behrendorff gained the benefit of a poor lbw decision with the ball pitching well outside leg.
In their retro kits, Australia’s reshaped batting order produced a performance if not quite from 1986 then certainly the late 1990s. There was a 45-ball period without a boundary from the 37th to the 44th over. Handscomb tried to give the innings some late impetus, finishing with a well-complied 73 off 61 balls, but Stoinis struggled to get going in his unbeaten 47 off 43 balls.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar set an impressive tone with the new ball, claiming his 100th ODI wicket when he nipped one back to beat Aaron Finch and Rohit clung onto a sharp catch at slip to remove Alex Carey. Australia briefly fed off some dross from Rayudu – India missed the escape valve of Kedar Jadhav’s (very) round-arm offspin – and Khawaja brought up his fifty from 70 balls, but did not go much further when he was lbw sweeping at Jadeja with an umpire’s call on hitting leg stump upholding the on-field decision.
Marsh, who has been the team’s form one-day player in the last eight months, played the solidity Australia would have liked to see more of in the Test series before picking out long-on early in Kuldeep Yadav’s second spell. It terminated another stand just as Australia were hoping to accelerate.
The innings was then becalmed as Handscomb and Stoinis dealt in singles: there was a period of more than six overs from the start of the 37th (before Marsh was dismissed) until the 43rd when it was the only scoring method. The pair finally broke free with a six apiece in Kuldeep’s final over but it was hard work.
Handscomb’s innings did include some touches of class including two sweetly timed back-to-back boundaries off Bhuvneshwar early in his stay and a superbly timed drive over the off side against the same bowler at the death. When he carved Bhuvneshwar to the deep it brought Glenn Maxwell to the crease with 16 balls of the innings remaining, and he scored 11 off the five balls he faced. That debate will continue. On the night it came together for Australia and, for the first time in a while, they have the opposition trying to catch them.