JANUARY 14, 2020
Brief Scorecard: Australia 258 for 0 (Warner 128*, Finch 110*) beat India 255 (Dhawan 74, Rahul 47, Starc 3-56, Richardson 2-43, Cummins 2-44) by ten wickets
MUMBAI, INDIA – Australia outsmarted India with the ball and then bullied them in the chase, with centuries from David Warner and Aaron Finch not even allowing the hosts a sniff. Together they put on the highest partnership for any wicket against India as Australia canter home by ten wickets with 12.2 overs to spare. Earlier, they restricted India to 255 after putting them in. At the forefront of the bowling effort were Mitchell Starc, who strangled India in three different phases to finish with 3 for 56, and Pat Cummins, who took the wickets of Shikhar Dhawan for 74 and Rishabh Pant for 28 to deny India any acceleration.
India’s bowlers found swing from both ends, but it was also clear that the pitch had less of the grip or stoppage that it had shown under daylight. With deliveries sliding on sweetly off the surface, both Finch and Warner were mostly unfazed by the odd ones that beat them.
Finch, in particular, stayed leg side of the ball and drove and chopped confidently through the covers of both front and back foot. Warner was more tentative to start off, getting his first boundary in the seventh over after Finch had already hit five. Once he got a taste, he too started hitting from a predominantly leg-side position, starting with a big plant down the pitch to lace Shardul Thakur over mid-off.
So brutal was the stroke-making that India’s bowlers took a while before they tried to pull their lengths back the way Australia had. Even when they did manage it, they started erring on the shorter side. Thakur was especially punished, his relatively lower pace suiting Warner particularly.
In his first over, the 11th of the innings, Kuldeep Yadav appeared like he might be able to apply the brakes and change the scoring pattern. He found Finch’s leading edge twice in that over, but soon enough a release ball lobbed full on middle stump was smoked straight for six. That brought up 100 in 12.3 overs, 70 of those runs coming in boundaries.
Soon enough, the spinners also started dropping them short, and the faultiness started showing. More misfields crept in, a review was wasted in the 20th over, and by the end of the 21st over Virat Kohli was pictured animatedly arguing an lbw decision with umpire C Shamshuddin.
In the meantime, Warner and Finch had made fifties, marched the team past 150, and set themselves up for hundreds that were reached with comfort after the 200 partnership was brought up in the 31st over.
Not at any point after the first drinks break did India appear like they had ideas to stop the pair, which was far from the case when Australia had the ball. Their fast bowlers had adjusted brilliantly on the fly in good batting conditions and were aided by impressive bowler rotation from captain Finch.
The first over of the match from Starc was indicative of two things to Australia – there wasn’t going to be too much swing, and straying too full was always going to cost boundaries.
Cummins relied more on whacking the ball into the surface at the other end, and soon enough, Starc adjusted his lengths too. After eight in the first over, India were tied to 13 in the middle of the fifth, when Rohit Sharma attempted a third expansive drive. On this occasion, Starc had gone cross-seam and natural variation forced a harmless chip to mid-off.
KL Rahul, India’s third opener in the squad, came in at No. 3. At the start, he looked more fluent than the returning Shikhar Dhawan, who crawled to 3 off 22 before he got his first boundary by running down at Starc. He followed up with one through midwicket next ball and with a slap over midwicket off Kane Richardson soon after, Dhawan became increasingly confident.
Both he and Rahul seemed to have assessed that there was some grip on the surface. Hardly any of the boundaries they picked up were forced – save one elegant six against the turn and over mid-off by Dhawan. Even so, their 121-run stand came in good time at 22.4 overs.
A slight lapse from Rahul, however, gave Australia an opening that they aggressively took advantage of. After stepping out to Agar, he lobbed his drive straight to extra cover to fall for 47. Next over, Cummins was brought on as soon as Kohli was at the crease. He managed to find Dhawan’s leading edge as he looked to flick and suddenly India were three down.
From the other end, Finch also brought back Adam Zampa, who had troubled Kohli on Australia’s last tour. It resulted in a wicket, Kohli looking to force a drive off Zampa but only managing to drill it straight back at him. Next over, another bowling change brought another wicket. Starc replaced Cummins, roughed Shreyas Iyer up with a bouncer, and pushed one across him next ball to have him caught-behind on the drive. From 134 for 1, the score read 164 for 5, with 17 overs still to play.
With Kedar Jadhav making way for a third opener, Pant was India’s No. 6, and one half of the last recognised batting pair alongside Ravindra Jadeja. The left-handers went about it much like Dhawan and Rahul had – no serious risks were taken, but the scoring rate kept India alive for a chance at 280.
But far too much was to be done. Just as they were on the verge of putting up 50 for the sixth wicket though, Jadeja’s attempted glide to third man off a Kane Richardson offcutter found Alex Carey. True to pattern, Cummins was brought on next over and produced a short one that Pant ended up pulling to point via the top edge and his helmet. That blow kept him from wicketkeeping later, with Rahul taking the gloves during the chase.
Thakur, Mohammed Shami, and Kuldeep had the crowd briefly interested and cheering for them, but 255 was never going to be enough.