Australia’s 72-run win gave it a 1-0 lead in the seven-ODI series, but more importantly the confidence that its bowling line-up could shake up India’s best, even on pitches that are on the slower side. Mitchell Johnson, thought to be in doubt for this match as his body needed rest, ran through the crease like a bull on a rampage, sending down the occasional 155 kmh missile that kept India’s batsmen honest. Johnson was used in short, sharp bursts by George Bailey, Australia’s captain, who had an extremely profitable day at the office.
To hunt down Australia’s total, India needed a strong start, and it was denied this when James Faulkner had Shikhar Dhawan caught behind on the back of a fiery opening spell from Johnson. Rohit Sharma put his head down, applied himself and did the early hard work, getting to 42, but threw his wicket away poking at Watson outside off, just when he appeared to have set himself up to make a significant contribution.
Suresh Raina was kept in check by Kohli, who was a picture of composure out in the middle. But as the asking rate climbed, Raina (39) played the most ungainly of heaves to be comfortably caught. Yuvraj Singh, who had lit up Rajkot not long ago, started well, clattering a Faulkner bouncer into the stands over square leg. But Johnson was brought back at exactly the right moment, and an attempted steer to third man lodged safely in Phil Hughes’ gloves behind the stumps. Hughes had taken over wicketkeeping duties after Faulkner, celebrating the wicket of Dhawan, misdirected a high-five and ended up poking Brad Haddin in the eye.
At 147 for 4, with 158 still needed from 21 overs, Dhoni was India’s last hope. Left with a lot to do, Dhoni did not quite get going and was bowled by Clint McKay with 196 on the board. From there on, it was only a matter of administering the last rites, and Australia had no trouble in bowling India out for 232 and sealing the win.
If Australia’s bowlers held their own admirably, it was the batsmen, led by Bailey, who set the tone. Hughes and Aaron Finch gave Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Vinay Kumar plenty of respect as the new ball did just enough to keep the bowlers interested. Once the openers got a measure of the pace of the pitch, however, and Ishant Sharma was introduced, scoring became considerably earlier. Ishant, who lacked rhythm and pace, was too short and often wide, allowing the cut shot to be played at will. Finch, in particular, was in fine nick, coming off a robust 89 in the one-off Twenty20 International at Rajkot. After Ishant was sent packing, Finch tucked into R Ashwin, sending him for a towering six over deep midwicket.
Finch and Hughes had put on 110 for the first wicket when Dhoni finally managed to get some control over proceedings through the left-arm spin duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Yuvraj. Hughes (47) was smartly caught by Raina at leg slip off a Jadeja delivery that bounced a touch extra, and Watson hit Yuvraj straight down long on’s throat.
In the blink of an eye Bailey had 25 to his name. Bailey left the power hitting to his more ambitious team-mates, focussing instead on working the ball around, finding the gaps and running hard. But when the loose ball came along, he cashed in. Bailey was efficiency personified and, had Finch (72) not fallen when he did, Australia might well have managed a bigger score.
Bailey, watching the wickets fall at the other end, kept the scoreboard ticking over at a fair clip, but was forced to delay an all-out assault. When he finally stepped on the gas, a heave to midwicket picked out Raina stationed in the deep for just such a shot. Bailey’s 85 steered the Australian innings, and with Glenn Maxwell and Faulkner chipping in with handy cameos, Australia got to 304 for 8, a score that proved plenty.