Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Hardik Pandya smashed a career-best 83 and took two wickets as India defeated Australia by 26 runs via the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method in the first ODI in Chennai on Sunday.
Pandya was well supported by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who scored 79, and Yuzvendra Chahal, who took three wickets.
India were coming into the game on a high as they whitewashed Sri Lanka 5-0 in their most recent ODI assignment. As for Australia, they had not played any ODI cricket since being eliminated in the group stage of the Champions Trophy.
Opting to bat first, India found themselves in trouble early on as Australia seamer Nathan Coulter-Nile ripped through their top order, taking out Ajinkya Rahane, captain Virat Kohli and Manish Pandey, to leave them reeling at 11/3 in the sixth over.
Rohit Sharma and Kedar Jadhav stemmed the bleeding with a 53-run partnership before Rohit was caught by Coulter-Nile at deep square leg off the bowling of Marcus Stoinis for 28.
Jadhav followed soon after as he was caught by debutant Hilton Cartwright at midwicket off the bowling of Stoinis for 40.
With India teetering on the edge of a major collapse at 87/5, Pandya and Dhoni came to the rescue as they amassed a crucial 118-run partnership, during which Pandya played the role of the aggressor and sailed past his fifty.
However, his time at the crease came to an end when he was dismissed by Adam Zampa for 83, which came off 66 balls and included five boundaries and five sixes.
Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar kept the runs flowing with a 72-run stand, during which Dhoni brought up his half-century, before he was sent packing by James Faulkner for 79, which came off 88 deliveries and included four boundaries and two sixes.
Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
With Kumar finishing unbeaten on 32, India ended up making 281/7 off their 50 overs.
Coulter-Nile was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets, while Stoinis snapped up two, and Faulkner and Zampa chipped in with one wicket apiece.
During the innings break, the heavens parted and play was suspended for a considerable amount of time.
Once the rain finally relented, Australia were set a revised total of 164 to win off 21 overs, but they didn’t get off to a good start as Cartwright was clean bowled by Jasprit Bumrah for one run.
Things went from bad to worse for the tourists when Pandya removed skipper Steve Smith and Travis Head for one and five runs respectively.
David Warner was then caught behind off the bowling of Kuldeep Yadav for 25, which left Australia in all kinds of trouble at 35/4.
With India in complete control, Glenn Maxwell began to take the attack to the hosts as he smashed a number of boundaries and launched numerous sixes.
However, he took the aerial route once too often and was eventually caught by Pandey at long-on off the bowling of Chahal for an 18-ball 39.
Australia’s collapse resumed after Maxwell’s departure and even though Faulkner hammered an unbeaten 32 towards the end of the innings, it proved futile as India emerged victorious.
Chahal was the most successful bowler with three wickets, while Pandya and Kuldeep took two, and Bumrah and Kumar claimed one wicket each.
Smith was less than impressed with his side’s performance, and said: “Yeah, obviously we got ourselves into a good position. We had them at 5 for 87 and let things off a bit. MS and Hardik had a great, match-winning partnership. The new ball was stopping and some skidded on. We lost too many wickets in the middle. You can’t control the weather.
“No complaints, we weren’t good enough and we were outplayed by India. I thought Cummins and Coulter-Nile bowled very well with the new ball and hopefully they can back it up in a couple of days’ time. It was a tough wicket with the new ball, and then we went away from our plans too early.”
Kohli was delighted to have taken a 1-0 lead in the five-match series, and said: “We spoke at the toss that we wanted to put on a big score. We lost wickets but MS and Kedar played well. Hardik then (played well too), MS then finished it off like he does. Today was an example, Sri Lanka was the example of how good the middle and lower order can be. The bowlers were outstanding as well.
“It is a matter of giving players confidence. Hardik believes in himself, and his innings was the game-changer. He possesses all three skills equally and we are lucky to have him. Chahal is very brave and doesn’t say no to any situation. Bhuvi and Bumrah are very clinical and our bank bowlers. After the rain, we felt this was our best T20 attack. We can’t have a more perfect combination.”
Pandya was named Man of the Match, and said: “It was a good day for me. A couple of catches could have helped. I don’t think anything has changed. I am the same Hardik I was a year back. Maybe people’s thinking has changed. To be honest, when Mahi bhai was batting with me, we knew what Zampa was going to bowl. I am glad [with what] I am doing with the bat and ball.”