India made a winning start to their ODI series against Australia. They beat the tourists by five wickets in the first ODI in their three match series. However, if the ultimate margin of victory was comfortable, that does not tell the full story of the match.
Having bowled Australia out for just 188 inside 36 overs at the Wankhede Stadium, India themselves were reeling in their reply at 39/4, until their middle order, led by KL Rahul, came to their rescue.
With Hardik Pandya leading the side with regular skipper Rohit Sharma unavailable for family reasons, India lined up as expected, with Ishan Kishan opening the batting, and Kuldeep Yadav preferred to Yuzvendra Chahal.
Although fit again, Australia chose not to recall David Warner, who was reported not to be fully fit, but instead opted for Mitchell Marsh to head their batting attack. They also packed their side with one day specialists like Glenn Maxwell, Josh Inglis and Adam Zampa.
It was Pandya who won the toss and chose to bowl first on a surface that offered some help to the seamers early.
Mohammed Siraj struck early, removing Travis Head at the end of the second over, but Marsh and Steve Smith added 72 for the second wicket, before the captain himself had him caught for 22. Marsh, then, combined with Marnus Labuschagne, and the pair added a further 52, before Marsh was out for 81. He had faced 65 balls and struck 5 sixes and 10 fours.
Unfortunately for Australia, that was the signal for their innings to begin to implode. Their remaining wickets fell for the addition of just 49 runs, as the Indian bowlers grabbed control of the proceedings.
Siraj took 3 – 29, and Mohammed Shami 3 – 17, whilst Ravindra Jadeja claimed two victims, including the key wicket of Marsh. It meant that not only had Australia committed the cardinal sin of not batting out their overs, but they had handed the psychological advantage to the home team.
However, their fast bowlers, especially Mitchell Starc, did their best to try and turn the match their side’s way. They soon had India reeling themselves, and, when KL Rahul and Pandya came together at the crease, they knew they had to dig themselves out of a hole.
The pair managed to stabilise matters with a partnership of 44, before Pandya fell to the bowling of Marcus Stoinis. But KL Rahul then found a more than capable ally in the form of Ravindra Jadeja, and the pair were able to steer their side home, without taking unnecessary risks, knowing that they had time and overs on their side.
In the end their unbeaten stand for the sixth wicket was worth 108, as they reached the finish line with more than 10 overs to spare. Rahul finished unbeaten on 75, made off 91 balls, and featuring a six and 7 fours. Jadeja’s unbeaten 45 came off 69 balls, and he had 5 fours to his name.
Starc took 3 – 49 for the tourists, and Stoinis 2 – 27.
Key talking points
Rahul answers his critics
Rahul has had his fair share of critics in recent months. His poor form in test cricket saw him dropped from the starting XI for the last two matches of the test series, and had been struggling in white ball cricket as well, However, he showed what a good batter he can be on his day, with an innings of character and resolve that was just what was needed under the circumstances.
Jadeja Player of the Match
Player of the Match honours went to Jadeja, not only for his supporting role to Rahul, but also for his bowling earlier in the day. He also pulled off a brilliant catch to send back Marnus Labuschagne to the pavilion just when he was starting to get set at the crease.
Australia need to improve
Australia will need nobody to tell them that they failed to get enough runs on the board. Apart from Marsh few of their batters failed to do themselves justice, and stand-in captain Steve Smith knows they will have to improve dramatically over the rest of the series.
What happens next
The two teams will now travel to Visakhapatnam for the second ODI on Sunday (March 19th).
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