India vs Australia: Partnership of grit on pitch of patience
KL Rahul’s unbeaten 75 off 91 balls helped India chase down 189 with 61 balls remaining in the first ODI against Australia at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Friday.
In what should come as a huge relief to the team management, Rahul batted with confidence as he and Ravindra Jadeja (45 not out) toiled hard to stitch together an unbroken 108-run partnership and complete the five-wicket victory.
The chase began disastrously as Mitchell Starc ripped through the Indian top-order to leave them in tatters at 16 for three. At 39/4, it looked as if Australia were on course to take a 1-0 lead but Rahul and Hardik Pandya — leading the team in the first game in Rohit Sharma’s absence — batted with conviction to put on 44 runs.
Jadeja, who had earlier initiated an Australian collapse by removing a well-set Mitch Marsh, then paired with Rahul to dismiss their challenge. The pair batted coolly and displayed a lot of discipline in their choice of shots.
“Saw three wickets fall down early... Starc was swinging the ball well and when he brings the ball back in, he is a dangerous bowler. I just tried to play normal cricketing shots. Got a few boundaries away and that settled my nerves,” said Rahul.
Jadeja too was happy with his Man of the Match performance. “I’m playing ODI cricket after 8 months so I was just looking to adapt to the format as soon as possible. Luckily with the ball, I got a few wickets. When I went to bat, I was looking to build a partnership with KL,” he said.
“I was looking to build a partnership today of about 70-80 runs, and that’s what happened.”
In the first half, Mohammed Shami (3/17) and Jadeja led India’s turnaround by restricting Australia to 188. Once Jadeja removed Mitchell Marsh (81 off 65 balls) in the 20th over, Shami ripped through their middle-order as they lost their last eight wickets for 59 runs.
Mohammed Siraj (3/29) struck in the second over of the game dismissing Travis Head after India decided to field. But Marsh, preferred over David Warner, smashed Siraj for three boundaries to break the shackles.
Steve Smith also got going at the other end as the two combined to make use of the Powerplay overs. Marsh even hoiked Shardul Thakur for a perfect six straight over the bowler’s head as the batter took control. But Smith chased a wide delivery off Pandya to be caught behind.
Marsh welcomed Kuldeep Yadav into the attack with back-to-back boundaries to bring up 50 off 51 balls. He absolutely hammered the bowling by hitting a six each off Kuldeep and Jadeja and looked on course for a hundred. But Jadeja gave India a huge reprieve with one that turned after pitching and Marsh mistimed it to get caught at short third man.
That triggered the collapse. Jadeja took a stunning catch to dismiss Marnus Labuschagne before Shami came back to break Australia’s back. Josh Inglis chopped one onto his stumps off Shami before the fast bowler broke through Cameron Green’s defence.
Australia were well placed at 174/6 after 30 overs with Marcus Stoinis at the crease but failed to take advantage.
Stoinis, who was put down by Shubman Gill first ball, was caught by the same fielder at first slip in Shami’s next over and once Jadeja got rid of Glenn Maxwell, it was curtains for Australia.