India chokes Australia with bat and ball
It was a calculated assault, especially on Nathan Coulter-Nile and Adam Zampa. The former – a reliable middle-over bowler with an economy of 5.5/over – went for 22 runs in his first three.
Every cricket team is the spitting image of its captain. And this Indian team, in that sense, is no different. Exuding confidence and attitude, sometimes to the point of brashness, they resemble Virat Kohli in every mannerism. Add to it, they like to chase, breaking down scores with ease, spurred on by their captain of course.
Kohli though is calculative. He will not decide to field first, just out of desire, no. There is a shrewd thinking mind in him, and throughout his chasing exploits, he has always broken down the target, calculated what needs to be done, and then worked towards it. As such, on Sunday, there was only one target – to beat Australia.
But, how do you defeat a team that doesn’t know when it has lost? Against West Indies in their previous game, the defending champions came back from the brink (38-4 at one stage) and registered an awe-inspiring victory at Nottingham, which resembled the Australian teams of old. How do you put a team that knows no pressure, which plays in siege mentality, under pressure?
Well, you do it by doing the basics right. Any other opponent, and India perhaps could have been tempted to field first at the Oval. Not this big a game – bat first, make it count, put score-board pressure on Australia and hope to break their batting line-up with spin during the chase. That’s how you put this Australian side under pressure, and let it be said here, team India followed this script to the very last detail, coming out on top by 36 runs.
The top-order has always been India’s strength in ODI cricket, and they played to it. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli have scored nearly 55 per cent of India’s ODI runs in the last two years. On Sunday, they scored 72 per cent of India’s total of 352-5.
One way to look at it is that they made it count –it is one thing to bat first against Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, but Rohit-Dhawan were watchful against the new ball in a morning start. They cut out the margin of error and built the partnership slowly 22-0 after 7 overs. Then, they cut loose when Australia’s second line of attack came on to bowl.
It was a calculated assault, especially on Nathan Coulter-Nile and Adam Zampa. The former – a reliable middle-over bowler with an economy of 5.5/over – whet for 22 runs in his first three. The leg spinner, who enjoyed so much success in India in March, was hit out of the attack with 18 runs from his first two overs. Suddenly, the pressure was back on Australia; they had to bring out their fifth bowler – Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis – early, and it worked even more in India’s favour.
In all, India hit these four bowlers for 220 runs in 30 overs, an average run-rate of 7.3/over. And it was possible because the top-three set up a great stand across two partnerships. Dhawan took the lead of course with his 17th ODI hundred – he loves the big stage of ICC events and feeds off the energy of cheering fans amidst the sea of blue. Combining with Rohit is second nature to him, and with Kohli dropping anchor at the other end, it was bound to be a big total for India.
Even so, this line-up has failed in the past in breaching that margin of 20-30 runs. They failed against Sri Lanka in the 2017 Champions Trophy at the same ground, and lost as a result. Today, there was no let-up with Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni combining with power hitting cameos. In particular, Pandya was harsh on the Australian bowling and provided the necessary acceleration that propelled India from 330-odd to a 350-plus total.
The Australian bowling had been choked, and from a par-total to par-plus, their chances of chasing this total down had taken a serious hit. It is the other pointer from the Oval on Sunday – not enough is said about World Cup pressure in a chase. It is perhaps easier to put runs on the board, because at some stage during the second innings, that untold pressure from being an elite-tournament game will tell on you. It is precisely what happened with the Australian batting line-up.
David Warner played out 46 dot deliveries. It was an uncharacteristic knock from the explosive opener whilst his side were chasing 353. Truth told though it was a mark of respect for the manner Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah bowled their first spells. Movement and tight lines, nothing too wide, the odd short delivery slipped in – they tied down the openers and set the tone for their bowling attack.
Sample this – Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal went for 1-40 in their first eight overs. They are used to picking wickets, early and regularly, but with Australian batsmen retreating in their shells, the wrist spinners bowled restrictive lines. Overall, they conceded 117 runs off 114 balls taking two wickets. It was a spell of great control, even if the wickets didn’t come for a change.
In all, India bowled dot deliveries worth 21.5 overs. Sure, it means Australia scored 316 runs off 22.1 overs – a staggering rate of 14.2 runs per over. But spread it through the innings and you find that Indian bowlers made sure that the chase was never really on thanks to those innumerable dot deliveries.
It is one thing to spank back-to-back boundaries, but when you are trying to string a chase together, cutting down a big target to even smaller targets is need of the hour. Australia weren’t allowed to do this, resulting in a sensation win for India.
With all due respect to New Zealand and Pakistan (next two opponents), as well as South Africa,this was the toughest game out of the first four for the Men in Blue. Beating Australia is a massive result, one that kicks their tournament into high gear.