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India vs Australia 2019, 2nd ODI: Aussies show promise but lack polish

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
443   //    06 Mar 2019, 01:40 IST

India v Australia - ODI Series: Game 2
India v Australia - ODI Series: Game 2

So close, yet so far as Elvis Presley so famously put it. This was the tale for Australia today as they came agonisingly close, but succumbed to a world-beating Indian outfit by 8 runs in Nagpur. 

After a mix of impressive bowling and fielding rattled all the Indians, except, of course, for Virat Kohli who scored yet another century, Australia were on course for what was expected to be an impressive victory under oppressive conditions. 

Yet, how often in recent times have the Australians squandered opportunities in this format and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory; this game was to be no different. 

With their revamped batting lineup in Khawaja, Handscomb, Marsh and Carey having shown promise so far in their incarnation, doubts still lingered about their staying power at the crease as well as shot selection which played a major role in their downfall. 

Khawaja and Handscomb in particular have shown the ability to grind out a start, work hard and build a stable platform on which Maxwell, Stoinis and co. can capitalise in the penultimate overs to either chase down larger totals or set imposing ones. Alas, this has not been the case. 

Australia’s batsmen have made a nasty habit of getting in and getting out in almost every ODI they have played in the recent past, getting to 30, 40 and 50 only to offer a loose shot and give it all away in an instant. 

In this match, Khawaja and Finch opened the innings cautiously, putting away the bad balls and nudging ones here and there whilst coping with the mastery of Jasprit Bumrah in his early, potent spell. Yet, as soon as they were set on 38 and 37 respectively the stoicism and concentration disappeared into the ether and they were back in the shed. 

The same can be said of Handscomb, although he was a tad unlucky with a rocket throw from Jadeja hitting the timber with audacious accuracy. It is these moments that make or break an innings and sometimes you have to make your own luck, a risky single in the heat of an ODI may well be a good idea to rotate the strike, but at 4/132 it was a rather irresponsible thing to attempt with players so close in the circle. 

Although India’s top and middle order were underwhelming at best today, it was Kohli’s ability to convert a start into a sizeable score that made the real difference and that is something the Australians must take away from this loss. 

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This lack of ability to produce big scores is purely a mental one as far as the Australians are concerned. One senses that they are too mentally scarred from their recent record as well as their respective places in the team, to bat with the poise and stoicism to succeed – and that in a sense is fair enough when there is so much uncertainty and pressure to perform after what has been a disastrous year in this format. 

For this current Australian side to have any chance of making it back into this series they need to free the shackles, and indeed their minds. If they cannot manage this, then this Indian adventure - and by extension the upcoming World Cup - looks set to end in disaster.

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