Australia hit back at the host in a decisive manner after the loss in the Twenty20 skirmish at Rajkot. Its incisive seam attack choked the supply of runs to a potentially-explosive Indian batting line-up and guided the team to a morale-boosting 72-run victory in the opening limited-overs match at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium here at Gahunje village on Sunday.
Shane Watson made up for a poor shot with the bat by bowling a superb line and length that held the Indian batsmen on a tight-leash and effected breakthroughs.
In fact, the entire group — Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay and James Faulkner — rose to the occasion to defend an imposing score of 304 posted by their batsmen who showed ambition and purpose. The pitch remained firm enough till the last ball, which the visitor’s seam-bowlers used adroitly to prevent the free-scoring home batsmen from making a successful chase.
The climbing run-rate forced an error-prone shot from Suresh Raina. Virat Kohli, who had taken the playmaker’s role after Rohit Sharma’s exit, may have been unlucky to fall a leg-before victim.
Australia’s campaign began with its batsmen playing bright and smart cricket. The batsmen grabbed the opportunity with both hands after winning the toss and provided ample proof that they will be no pushovers.
Aaron Finch and Phil Hughes may be a far cry to match the devastating effect produced by Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist in their pomp, but nonetheless the pair on view sent out clear warning signals that they are equipped to counter the demands of medium-pacers and spinners, who thrive on slow and sluggish pitches. During their splendid century-plus stand, they cut the medium-pacers and spinners down to size and did not leave any ordinary bowling go unpunished.
Apart from Finch and Hughes, the others in the bright yellow and green colours to shine were captain George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell and Faulkner. Finch and Hughes were watchful in the first six overs that yielded only 14 runs. But a flurry of clean and attractive shots came off their bats once Finch lifted Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the first big boundary of the match.
Soon Hughes executed a pull and a square drive off Vinay Kumar, as the opening pair posted 50 on the board in the first block of ten power-play overs.
While India’s new ball operators appeared quite pedestrian, Ishant Sharma disappointed conceding 30 runs in his first four overs.
Both Finch and Hughes employed the cut-shot effectively several times, and also picked up runs hitting the ball through the line. It was a stroke of luck that saw the dismissal of Hughes and the partnership broken with the leg-slip coming into play for the left-arm spin of Ravindra Jadeja. Yuvraj Singh began his six-over spell, luring Watson and then accounting for Finch.
Skipper Bailey swept and pulled his way to a brilliant knock that ended 15 runs short of a deserving century. Maxwell and Faulkner took the side past 300 with some big hitting. The batting power-play resulted in 39 runs and the last ten overs, 80. Australia has taken the initiative, and the psychological edge.