Virat Kohli scored a scintillating unbeaten 55-ball 90. Comeback man Suresh Raina chipped in with a valuable 41. And even Mahendra Singh Dhoni – the much criticised, much-maligned captain – hit a six and a four off the first two balls he faced.
But that was not the story of the first Twenty20 of the three-match series between India and Australia. The batsmen have come good in every match of this Australia tour. For the first time, India’s bowlers finally put their hands up in Adelaide and demonstrated that they too could win matches for their team.
True, they were helped by a challenging score. Chasing 189 was not going to be easy for Australia. But after the Australian openers shot off the blocks, they looked set to chase it down with ease, just as they had done on three occasions in the One Day International series.
Twenty20 matches are so short that the final statistics do not often reflect the performances. So, while the statistics might indicate that the 22-year old Jasprit Bumrah was India’s best bowler with three wickets in the match, they do not tell the whole story. This was a match won in a crucial two-over period in Australia’s chase. Those two overs were bowled by Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin.
First, Jadeja stepped up. At 82/1 in eight overs and with Aaron Finch and Steven Smith at the crease, Australia looked ominous. The crafty left-arm spinner bowled a tidy over. On the last ball, he slowed up things just a little bit. Steve Smith, who has been the man in form for Australia, went through with his shot a little too early, got an outside edge and holed out to Virat Kohli.
Then it was Ashwin’s turn. Why Ashwin was left out of the Indian ODI squad after the first two games is a question that no one can really answer. But his second over was a telling example of his growth as a bowler. Hammered for 18 runs in his first over, Ashwin in an earlier avatar would have tried a little too hard and in the process probably done something stupid. This is a much more mature Ashwin though, very confident in his own abilities and he was right on the money – cleverly switching the angle to dismiss Finch leg-before-wicket.
Encouraging bowling display
Once Australia’s two set batsmen departed, the match was as good as over. Jadeja and Ashwin applied the squeeze as Australia’s inexperience came to the fore. Only 21 runs were scored in the next four overs, a travesty considering the required run rate. Jadeja and Ashwin had more or less delivered the knockout punch.
The other happy note in this much deserved victory was that apart from Hardik Pandya who had a horror first over conceding 19 runs, the other bowlers were also more or less on the mark. Bumrah, who made an impressive ODI debut, continued his good work and his stinging yorker to dismiss James Faulkner at the end just after he was hit for a massive six, was great to see. Even Ashish Nehra, playing his first international match in Indian colours since 2011, recovered after being hammered in the first few overs to finish with a wicket to his name.
It is not often that the Indian bowling gets praise, but today’s match is one of those instances. With the T20 World Cup coming very soon, Dhoni will be heartened by the fact that his bowlers have finally started to take the load off the batsmen. Now the hope will be that they can maintain this consistency.
1st T20 in Adelaide: India (188/3 in 20 overs) beat Australia (151 all out in 19.3 overs) by 37 runs.