Australia and India locked horns at the SCG on Saturday afternoon with the hosts looking to end their limited overs woes. The Australians kept their cool and won the first of three ODIs by 34 runs.
India started off brightly and sent both the Aussie openers packing before the culmination of the power play. However, Khawaja and Marsh joined forces to resurrect the innings and set the platform for a burst in the death overs.
Handscomb and Stoinis rose to the occasion in the last quarter of the innings and helped the Aussies pile on 93 runs in the final ten overs.
Replying to the hosts’ score of 288, the visitors got off to the worst possible start and were tottering at 4-3 inside four overs. Dhoni and Rohit stitched a century stand together yet it just delayed the inevitable rather than harbour hopes of a victory.
The win provides Australia with the much-needed respite after their shocking displays against South Africa and Pakistan. In the process, they also became the first country to breach the ‘1000 wins across all formats’ barrier.
As for India, a few of their old problems resurfaced and though the odd loss shouldn’t worry them, they need to ensure that it only remains an aberration and doesn’t become the norm.
Through the lens of this article, we would look at three things that we learnt.
#3 India needs to include Kedar Jadhav in the eleven
Before the ODI series started properly, Hardik Pandya found himself in the middle of a storm following some questionable comments on national television. With the all-rounder out of the mix, India’s balance was dealt a severe blow and the think-tank had to burn the midnight oil to find the right blend. Yet, as the game progressed, it became clear that India were just a little shy off the mark.
The visitors brought in Karthik for Jadhav. Though the pair is pretty inseparable with regards to their ability with the willow, the latter’s attribute to get through a few overs, distinguishes him from the former.
At Sydney, Shami provided the Indian team a mini-scare when he left the field injured. Though he eventually returned, his absence suddenly brought to light the dearth of a sixth bowling option.
Additionally, Bhuvneshwar and Khaleel went at over a run-a-ball yet the lack of a bowler capable of turning his arm over, meant the duo was persisted with. Moreover, Karthik didn’t cover himself in glory when accorded the chance to finish off the game.
It would obviously be very naïve to expect that Jadhav would surely have gotten India over the line yet the diminutive right-hander seems better-equipped to the fifty over format than Karthik.
Jadhav surely adds bowling depth to a side that desperately lacks a bowler who can fill in at times. Thus, in Pandya’s absence, India needs to devise a method to bring him into the fold.
As funny as it may sound, Jadhav’s inclusion in the team may be more dependent on his bowling. And remember, it isn’t even his strongest suit.
#2 Richardson needs to go to the World Cup
Australia decided to rest their premier fast bowlers for the ODI series after the trio had gone through an enormous amount of toil in the Tests. Thus, the likes of Jason Behrendorff and Jhye Richardson were called and boy, did they stand up to be counted.
The Perth Scorchers teammates dented India’s run-chase as they ripped through India’s top order. While the former accounted for Dhawan, the latter got the prized scalp of Kohli.
Richardson, though, wasn’t finished as he later captured the wickets of Jadeja and Karthik to cap off a sumptuous display. The right-arm pacer ended with astonishing figures of 10-2-26-4.
Throughout the innings, he troubled the visitors with his propensity to extract movement off the pitch. Additionally, Richardson was able to hurry the batsmen on a relatively flat pitch and duly earned his rewards.
The pacer had made his debut in 2018 and endured a rude baptism by fire against the hard-hitting English side. But, he seems to have learnt from those experiences and matured immensely.
So far, Australia haven’t zeroed in on a concrete template for the World Cup. Though their batting is an apparent concern, they can’t claim to boast of a settled bowling attack either.
Yet, if Richardson can conjure performances like today, he will feature at the forefront of any of those bowling discussions. For all we know, the pacer’s freshness and raw ability could just be the tonic for Australia’s ailments.
#1 India’s middle order still looks brittle
Over the past couple of years, India has barely had any blemishes in ODI cricket. Yet, whenever those have come about, a common thread has been identifiable: a failure of the top order.
In the 1st ODI, the Aussie pacers scythed through India’s top order and left them gasping for air at 4-3. Though MS Dhoni spent some time in the middle to construct a fifty, he was unable to increase the tempo when required.
Rohit struck a stunning century and briefly, ignited hopes of an Indian victory but the middle-order’s spectacular collapse made sure that nothing of the sort happened.
India might get away with such disintegrations in bilateral series. However, in a tournament like the World Cup, they need each of their components in perfect working condition.
At this juncture, India’s middle muddle just keeps getting messier. Despite possessing the problem for a better part of the past couple of years, they are no closer to answering the conundrum.
With only 12 games left before the World Cup, time is running out for India. And if they indeed want to get a 3rd World Cup triumph on the board, they simply can’t crumble under pressure in the middle overs.