India defeated Australia by 26 runs in a rain-affected game which saw the second innings reduced to just 21 overs. India won the toss and opted to bat, scoring 281 runs after a shambolic start which saw them reduced to 11-3. Pandya and Dhoni saved the day for the home side by scoring 79 and 83 respectively, pushing India to a competitive total.
Rain and the Duckworth-Lewis system meant that Australia were set a new equation to win the match. A target of 164 in 21 overs. Given the wet outfield, tough conditions for the bowlers to grip the ball, and a batting lineup extraordinarily geared for a T20-like matchup, most thought Australia should have chased the total down.
The victory failed to materialise thanks to Chahal, Pandya, and Kuldeep Yadav, who took seven wickets between them to restrict the Aussies to 137-9 at the end of 21 overs. Both the teams had plenty to take away from the match, areas they could improve on to win or continue winning in the series ahead. We look at five takeaways from the first ODI.
1) Australia need to improve their fielding
More than their abysmal batting, Australia lost the match almost solely because of their fielding considering several catches they dropped and runs they gave away to misfields. Rohit Sharma was dropped on 4 by Steve Smith at second slip off Cummins. This one was not as costly since Sharma managed 24 more after the drop. However, Smith also dropped Pandya on 13 at the same position off of Coulter-Nile. Pandya was the highest scorer for India, amassing 83 in 66 balls. The second one was a sharp chance, more so than the first, and calling it a drop could be considered harsh on the skipper, but an adept slip fielder should have clung on. Besides these two, several misfields on the boundary and within the thirty-yard circle saw India build their comeback from a bleak 11-3.
2) The Australian pacers have figured out where to bowl to the Indians
Despite the fielding, the Australian bowlers were superb with their line and length in the first half of the match, consistently attacking the corridor of uncertainty and producing edges off the bat. Coulter-Nile regularly bowled the full delivery outside off stump that angled away from the batsman, a tactic that was very successful for him in the IPL, to take three early wickets. Cummins’ length was much shorter than Coulter-Nile’s, but he beat the Indian batsmen often as they tried to drive him through the covers. Stoinis consistently bowled a short length outside off stump, exposing another Achilles Heel for the Indians. He was rewarded with two wickets, that of Jadhav and Sharma, both of whom tried pulling the ball unsuccessfully.
3) Not selecting Agar was the right choice
Given the Chepauk pitch’s notoriety for spin, one could safely hedge their bets for including two spinners. Smith, however, went with only Zampa. He left out Ashton Agar in favour of Hilton Cartwright to play the extra batsman. Though Cartwright only scored 1 off 8 balls, the Indians were very comfortable against spin, safely knocking the ball around and hitting the bad ball away to the fence. That Zampa ended with 1-66 in 10 overs despite the slowdown that Australia caused early shows just how easily the Indians played him. Pandya even hit three sixes and a four off one of his overs. The Eden Gardens is another slow pitch, and Smith might just drop Cartwright this time.
4) India have a positive dilemma on their hands
Before the ODI began, reports emerged that Axar Patel has been ruled out for the first three ODIs against Australia and that he had been replaced by Ravindra Jadeja. However, the two spinners, Yadav and Chahal, kept him out of the first team due to their consistent wicket-taking performances in recent matches. Chahal ended the first ODI with figures of 3-30 in five overs, and Yadav with 2-33 in four. Jadeja provides some handy batting cover down the order in case of a collapse, similar to the one on Sunday. His slow bowling has also been indispensable for the Indians over the past few years. For the next match, Kohli needs to decide if India need the extra batsman down the order, or if he can continue with Chahal and Yadav given their impressive stints in the team. It’s a healthy selection headache, one he will cherish having, but the decision could factor into the next match and the end result in a massive way.
5) India’s lower middle order is the best it’s been in a while.
Not too long ago, many in the media were contemplating whether MS Dhoni deserved to play in the 2019 World Cup after inconsistency and his axing as captain. In the recent Sri Lanka series and the ODI against Australia, he has hit back in the best possible way. Pandya has been another revelation for India with both bat and ball and is quickly emerging as a superstar in a side that is going through a transitional phase. His knock of 83, under pressure, when India was 87-5 should allay concerns regarding his maturity. Another bright spot for India has been Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He scored a match-winning 51 against Sri Lanka and has now come up with a significant 32 from 30 to encourage hopeful fans. It is still too early to judge his long-term reliability with the bat, but all the omens point in the right direction.
What were your big takeaways from India’s win in the first ODI? Let us know in the comments below.
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