If there are any strong concerns over India’s batting line-up being top-heavy, Kedar Jadhav and M.S. Dhoni have allayed them for the moment. The two batted with great maturity and poise on Saturday to dig their team out of a tough spot and lead it to victory in the first ODI.
After Australia had stumbled to 236 for seven, thanks to a fine bowling performance led by Mohammed Shami and Kuldeep Yadav, India found itself wobbling at 99 for four. Dhoni and Jadhav, though, steadied the ship, adding 141 (149b) in their unbroken alliance for the fifth wicket, as India won with 10 balls to spare at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.
Early in India’s run-chase, when Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma were at the crease, it looked like the task was going to be a simple one. The pair added 76 for the second wicket, without a sign of the strain that was to follow. Kohli’s 44 (45b) included some imperious on-drives and pull-shots, and a half-century seemed a certainty when Adam Zampa struck. Kohli failed to spot a googly and pushed forward in defence; he was given out leg-before on review.
Rohit fell soon after, caught off the leading edge as he sought to work Nathan Coulter-Nile to leg. Ambati Rayudu unfurled a neat cover drive early in his innings, but perished for 13, caught behind as he pushed forward to a Zampa leg-break. India had lost three for 19 in the space of 40 balls, and facing Pat Cummins and Zampa was proving especially tricky.
Dhoni and Jadhav rebuilt steadily, on a pitch where batting was proving hard. They added only 35 in the first 10 overs of their stand, taking few risks. Once the target was less than a hundred away, though, they pushed on, matching the required rate of a run a ball. Jadhav exhibited a full range of strokes during his knock: dabs to third man, strong pull shots, nudges to leg, and a casual, inside-out drive to the cover boundary off Zampa. The running between the wickets was excellent too, as India sailed home in the end.
Finch falls early again
The first innings was a tale of disciplined bowling and missed Australian opportunity. Aaron Finch won the toss for the third straight time this tour, but that was as good as his afternoon got. He fell third-ball for nought, before Usman Khawaja and Marcus Stoinis added 87 (112b) for the second wicket, looking rather comfortable at the crease. They stepped down the wicket to Kuldeep, Khawaja even dispatching the spinner’s third ball for six.
At the other end, Vijay Shankar struggled for control and Stoinis took full toll, cutting and pulling to the boundary. The Tamil Nadu all-rounder went for 22 in his first three overs, and was never brought back. It was Jadhav who broke through. The Maharashtra man sent down his low, flat, wide-armers from time to time but it was a routine delivery that did for Stoinis. It was a poor, short ball and the batsman pulled it straight to Kohli at mid-wicket. It was also the start of Australia’s slump: the side would lose six for 86 inside 20 overs.
Kuldeep and Shami were the architects of that collapse, but Ravindra Jadeja’s role was no less important. The all-rounder, who was chosen while India rested Yuzvendra Chahal, sent down 10 unfussy overs for 33, rushing through his spell almost unnoticed.
Khawaja fell attacking Kuldeep two balls after completing his fifty, caught expertly in the outfield by a sliding Vijay Shankar. Glenn Maxwell looked fluent during his 40 (51b, 5×4), raising the tempo of the innings in the company of Peter Handscomb. But Kuldeep soon had the latter stumped, drawing him out and beating him with a leg-break.
Shami then struck twice in quick succession, bowling both Maxwell and the debutant Ashton Turner. The Bengal fast bowler was excellent, pace, accuracy and movement making him hard to counter. The innings had lost all momentum and it eventually took a 62-run seventh-wicket stand between Alex Carey and Coulter-Nile to carry Australia beyond 200.