India 49 for 1 (Kohli 22*) beat Australia 118 for 8 (Finch 42, Kuldeep 2-16, Bumrah 2-17) by nine wickets via DLS method
Australia’s batsmen had a dire time coping with a slow and low surface at the JSCA International Stadium and never recovered from the early muddle, eventually conceding the first T20I by nine wickets to India. Rain came down after Australia had limped to 118 for 8 in 18.4 overs, and by the time it subsided, India’s chase had been shortened to six overs. They mowed down the 48-run target with minimal fuss despite the loss of Rohit Sharma.
It was a pitch that had everything a batsman does not desire to see in a T20 game – variable bounce, lack of pace, grip, turn, and early on some movement in the air.
Some of that swing reappeared at the start of India’s chase; off the very first ball, Rohit wristily whipped an inswinger from the debutant paceman Jason Behrendorff late through midwicket. He followed it up with a nonchalantly flicked six over long leg off Nathan Coulter-Nile, but the bowler swung one past a flick next ball and clattered his stumps. Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan then ran down the remainder of the target with the help of timely boundaries. Adam Zampa bounced back excellently from a first-ball four in the penultimate over to concede just six and leave India with as many to get off the last over, and Kohli sealed it with a lofted four over extra-cover off Daniel Christian.
Just how low the surface played was seen in the fact that six of the eight wickets Australia lost were bowled; two of them chopping on. It was far from what David Warner, Australia’s stand-in captain, had pictured when he was asked to bat and expressed his inclination to do the same. The miscalculations of length began early enough, Warner setting the template when, having flayed two wide deliveries for four, he again swooped his bat down at an angle to a good-length ball and chopped on in the first over. Not long after emerged the signs that Australia were in for a long, hard grind as they played out 13 dots in the first five overs.
The effects of those dots were somewhat neutralised by Aaron Finch’s counter-charge. The only Australia batsman to display any kind of fluency, Finch built up steam with smart clips, gentle dabs, the occasional chip, and when the bowlers erred in length, brutal cuts and forceful drives.
Hardik Pandya was especially culpable of those errors in length. He hardly found pace off the surface, and his first spell was strewn with fuller deliveries and length balls that often came with the added incentive of width. In all, his first two overs contained just three dot balls and four fours.
The dismissal of Glenn Maxwell, who added 47 with Finch, halted Australia’s all-too-brief charge. It arrived off a short ball that Maxwell pulled straight into the hands of short midwicket.
The shorter length would go on to characterise Chahal’s spell and was testament to how well he had sussed out the surface. While it didn’t help the pacers to drop short, this length worked in favour of the legspinner, as it gave the ball enough time to grip and prevented the batsmen from getting on top of the bounce.
Kuldeep Yadav, the left-arm wristspinner, made for a study in contrast with his lengths in the first half of his spell. Seven of his first 12 balls were full and it meant that Finch settled into the sweep, employing the shot to the first five balls he faced off him. That turned out to be the set-up that would trap Finch as he loaded up for another sweep only for Kuldeep to fire it in quick and fuller still, leaving Finch with next to no time to adjust and bowling him.
Variable bounce accounted for Moises Henriques and Travis Head. In contrast to Finch, Kuldeep slowed his pace down to Henriques, who telegraphed a charge and swung blindly to be bowled. The rest of the order hardly painted a pretty picture. Australia’s slide allowed Pandya to bounce back with a much-improved second spell of 2-0-10-1.
Perhaps the only passage of play that India wouldn’t look back on too fondly was the 15th over, sent down by Chahal, which saw two shelled catches and a rare stumping chance fluffed by MS Dhoni. That Tim Paine, the batsman reprieved on each occasion, still ended up with an unflattering 17 off 16 summed up Australia’s day.
Akshay Gopalakrishnan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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