Mohammed Shami and Suryakumar Yadav ticked the right boxes as India began the three-match ODI series against Australia with a facile five-wicket victory in Mohali on Friday.
Both Shami and Surya haven’t been the first-choice players in the playing XI in
the lead-up to the World Cup and their convincing performance is sure to make the team management sit up and take notice.
While Shami took five for 51 to restrict Australia to 276, Surya put to rest all lingering doubts about his form and ability to cope with the 50-over format. His 50 off 49 balls was a show of maturity as he controlled his natural aggression and met the demands of the situation.
Friday's victory helped India attain the No.1 spot in ODI rankings. They are now placed at the top in all three formats of the game.
Stand-in captain KL Rahul was lucky to survive twice off Adam Zampa’s over early in the innings but once he settled down there was no looking back. Rahul and Surya added 80 runs for the fifth wicket as India won with eight balls to spare. Rahul (58 not out off 63) hit the winning runs off consecutive balls with a boundary and a six off Sean Abbott.
Mohammed Shami after getting Steve Smith (left) out for 41 on Friday. Getty Images
Surya’s innings will come as a huge relief for head coach Rahul Dravid who stuck with him in adversity. The fact that Surya didn’t play a single sweep shot after it brought about his downfall in the Asia Cup spoke a lot about his commitment and discipline.
The T20 dasher played a more conventional role in the middle order, concentrating in the ‘V’, picking the singles and driving straight down
the wicket. The only six off his innings, his trademark scoop over fine leg, came after
“That was what I was dreaming off when I started playing this format... Try and bat till the end as much as possible and finish the game for the team. I couldn’t do that today (Friday) but definitely loving my new role,” said a relieved Surya.
But it was the 142-run opening partnership between Shubman Gill and Ruturaj Gaikwad that set India on course for victory. Gill, playing his first International on his home ground, batted fluently during his 74 off 63 balls.
Gaikwad was also in his element, timing the ball perfectly for his 71 off 77 balls. The two set the momentum as Australia struggled to find the breakthroughs.
Three wickets within nine runs did put a brake on the chase. When Ishan Kishan departed 34 runs later, it seemed Australia would enjoy the upper hand. But Rahul and Surya helped India sail through.
Kishan never lived up to his early promise while Shreyas Iyer was unlucky to be run out.
Earlier, Shami displayed his artistry as Australia were restricted to 276.
It was Shami’s second five-wicket haul in ODIs. His performance is sure to whip up a debate on whether India need to include all three pacers — Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Shami — in the playing XI.
The think-tank has been persisting with Bumrah and Siraj since the Asia Cup with the latter producing a lethal performance in the final to shatter Sri Lanka’s hopes.
Shardul Thakur, the other pace bowling all-rounder in the squad, was a bit expensive, going for 78 in his 10 overs. Shardul, however, would consider himself unlucky that Iyer dropped a dolly at mid-off off David Warner.