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India vs Australia 2020: How a lively display from Australia left India chasing the shadows in the series opener 

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Feature
Published Jan 15, 2020
Jan 15, 2020 IST

David Warner
David Warner

On the eve of India's first ODI against Australia, former Indian opener Gautam Gambhir said, "Virat Kohli is far, far better than Steve Smith in white-ball cricket. There's no comparison.”

He was right. On 14 January 2020, Mumbai was not Adelaide and Steve Smith was not Virat Kohli. And playing the first ODI against India at the Wankhede stadium, Smith was not required to bat at all; Australia’s openers did the job.

The Kohli-led Indian team lost the match whereas Team Australia, which Smith was part of, won it. In such a case, what is the point of making individual comparisons? Everyone knows that cricket is a team game. What about Team India’s performance?

Finch and Warner stitched together a match-winning partnership for the Aussies
Finch and Warner stitched together a match-winning partnership for the Aussies

David Warner’s straight drive for a boundary off Mohammed Shami brought the winning runs for Australia as the visitors reached the victory target of 256 in just 37.4 overs. With that, Australia now lead the ODI series 1-0.

Also see – India vs Australia schedule

As it turned out, the match was all about the Australian batsmen’s loud calls of firm no’s to their non-strikers, a sensible opening partnership when chasing the target, their bowlers contributing by getting breakthroughs at the right time, and India’s inability to string either batting or bowling partnerships. The Indian captain’s loud call of desperation, joining Kuldeep Yadav in appealing for a leg before decision against Finch, was perhaps emblematic of the hole that India found themselves in.

Shikar Dhawan batted well for his half century
Shikar Dhawan batted well for his half century

Chasing the target of 256 set by India, Australia scored 187-0 in 28 overs. By this time, India had tried all their tricks – Jasprit Bumrah, India’s magic man (as described by one of the TV commentators) had finished a decent spell; Shami, the highest wicket taker in 2019, had bowled his heart out; Kuldeep, the mystery bowler with the wrong one in his arsenal, had tried to spin his own tale; and Ravindra Jadeja, a smart spinner, had done his wicket-less best.

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It was quite evident - and this is to take nothing away from the opponents that they had played against in recent times - that India were facing a formidable opposition at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai. Not only did the Warner-Finch duo score individual unbeaten hundreds, they also inflicted considerable damage upon the Indian bowling attack. 

In the commentary box, Michael Slater sounded really confident that India, being a great team, would be able to make a strong comeback in the short series. The expectant home crowd cheering for their team - whenever an Indian batsman hit bat to ball, and whenever an Indian fielder caught a ball on the first or second bounce - was a sight to remember, but could also be a sign of things to come in the next two games.

Earlier, batting first, India were dismissed for 255 in 49.1 overs. Shikar Dhawan scored a steady but brisk 74, and KL Rahul fell three short of his half century. Australia’s Mitchell Starc picked three wickets, Pat Cummins and Kane Richardson took two each, while spinners Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar chipped in with one wicket apiece.

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli's men have their task cut out

The battle at Wankhede is over. And Sanjay Manjrekar’s observation at the post-match presentation, of Australia’s win “suddenly livening up the series”, was the perfect summation of the match.

The stage is set. India will have to win the next two matches if they want to win the series, which will be no mean feat. Having been beaten comprehensively by a full-strength Australia in the opening match, India will need to be at their very best to give themselves a chance to beat Finch’s men.

Time will tell whether they will succeed in their task.

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