India set an unwanted record as they lost the first T20I to Australia in Mohali on Tuesday. Not only did they fail to defend a score in excess of 200 for the second time at home in less than a year, but they also became only the second team, after South Africa, among full members nations to lose despite posting a plus 200 score since 2016.
Even wearing their new team jersey did not bring them success.
Among the recriminations that have followed the defeat, both the Indian bowlers and fielders have come in for their fair share of criticism, with experts opining that their World Cup chances are slim unless both improve considerably.
It was the visitors who won the toss and decided to field first, and, although they enjoyed some early joy with the ball when Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli were dismissed cheaply, KL Rahul, finding some welcome form and partially answering his critics, made a half century, and together with Suryakumar Yadav shared a stand of 68 for the third wicket.
The innings really came to life, though, when Hardik Pandya came to the crease. He smashed an unbeaten 71 off just 30 balls, including 5 sixes and 7 fours, helping the home team close on 208/6 from their 20 overs, normally a score good enough to win nearly all matches in T20I cricket.
Australia had other ideas, though, and with David Warner rested for this tour, promoted Cameron Green to the role of stand-in opener in his stead. It proved to be an inspired decision as the all-rounder made 61 from just 30 balls, providing an ideal platform for those to follow.
With the tourists always in touch with the required run rate, the Indian bowlers were unable to apply the brakes, and Matthew Wade helped carry the Australians over the line, with 45 off 21 balls, including 2 sixes of his own.
They reached their target with four balls and four wickets to spare.
Talking points from the match
Bowling and fielding let India down
Indian captain Rohit Sharma tried to accentuate the positives after the match, praising his side’s batting performance and also saying that the defeat offered a learning opportunity. However, he was also prepared to accept that the side’s bowling and fielding was not up to scratch, with fingers being pointed at veteran seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar who conceded 62 runs and was unable to exercise any pressure in the death overs.
Fellow seamer Harshal Patel leaked 49 runs, whilst Deepak Chahal was also expensive.
The fielding too was sloppy.
Sharma himself has come in for his fair share of criticism on social media in India, with many arguing that his captaincy was not up to scratch.
India need Bumrah
One unexpected absentee from the Indian starting line-up was fast bowler, Jasprit Bumrah, who has missed most of the summer with a back injury but is now fit again. Sharma explained his omission as tactical and that Bumrah will probably play in the next two games.
On this evidence, though, India desperately needs his control and ability to bowl tight spells. Otherwise their pace attack can start to look very ordinary.
Has Karthik relegated Pant permanently?
Another selection decision made was opting for Dinesh Karthik over Rishabh Pant for the role of wicket-keeper/batter, although he only made five runs during the India innings. However, with the time for experimentation fast running out, does this mean that Pant must accept a squad role only at the World Cup?
No Warner, no problem
For Australia, though, the defending World Cup champions, they will be feeling very good about themselves after this victory. Deprived of several players for the tour through injury, they were still able to stand up to the pressure of the occasion and will have been delighted how Green, in an unfamiliar role, took to it like a duck to water.
Sometimes accused of being too reliant on the rested David Warner at the top of the order, they may just have stumbled upon a viable alternative.
Wade has struggled to find his form in the Indian T20 league, but he revelled in the conditions in Mohali, using his experience to not go after every ball, instead choosing which ones to attack, and where to place the ball.
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