Australia v India | 1st T20 | Tuesday 26 January | Adelaide Oval | 09:00
After a riveting five match ODI series, that saw over 3150 runs scored and 58 wickets fall, Australia and India now go head to head in a three match T20 series. With the World T20 just around the corner, these three matches may give us a great idea as to how two of the tournament's favorites will go at the showpiece event.
To Win Match
A fantastic showing, by an injury-hit Australian squad, was somewhat soured by a defeat in the final ODI last Saturday. Having lost the wickets of Finch (6), Smith (28), Bailey (6), and Sean Marsh (7) inside the first 20 overs, the Australians were staring down the barrel of a sub-par score. You can never discount a team containing Dave Warner, however. The powerful left-hander struck nine fours and three sixes on his way to 113 ball 122. He wasn’t the only Australian to notch up a ton as Mitchell Marsh recorded 126 ball 102. Marsh was well supported at the tail of the Australian batting innings by wicketkeeper Matthew Wade who chipped in with a rapid fire 36 that helped Australia set an extremely defendable total of 330.
It would have taken a brave but ultimately smart punter to back India at this point in the piece. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan got India off to a flyer. Dhawan, in particular, was brutal on his way to a 56 ball 78. He was eventually dismissed in the 18th over but by now India had a solid platform to work off at 123-1.
There’s an old adage in cricket, however, that simply states 'add two wickets to the current score and the game's complexion is totally changed'. Well, this match was completely turned on it's head when Virat Kohli was dismissed by James Hastings exactly two overs after Dhawan had departed the scene. With two wickets falling in quick succession and memories of the previous ODI – which saw India collapse in the most spectacular of manners – still fresh in the Indians minds, their batsmen decided to take a cautious approach, which played right into Steve Smith’s boys' hands.
Rohit Sharma and Manish Panday managed to take the score to 231 before Sharma was dismissed chasing a wide one. His departure brought MS Dhoni to the wicket. With Dhoni struggling to find the middle of the bat, Panday was forced to take the lead role. The youngster went about his job with aplomb – picking up singles and striking the occasional boundary.
By the time, the final over rolled around India required 13 runs to win. Mitchell Marsh was the Australian bowler tasked with defending the runs. After his first delivery was unjustly signaled as a wide, Marsh kind of lost his head. He followed his wide up with a low full toss which Dhoni struck for six. There was to be late drama however as Dhoni was dismissed the following ball. The game was still on a knife's edge with the Indians requiring six runs off the final four balls. Marsh then fired a low and wide full toss that seemed destined to be a dot ball, Panday had different ideas however, as he guided the ball down to a vacant third man for four. Panday then struck following ball for four to give India their first win in the five-match series.
While Darren Lehman will be more than happy with his charges showing in the series, the manner of the last defeat may be troubling him. Incumbent spinner, Nathan Lyon was extremely expensive. The left arm off spinner went for 58 runs in his eight overs and failed to pick up a wicket. Lyon’s struggles with the ball are compounded when you factor in the unavailability of Glen Maxwell. The switch-hitting master and off-spinner has been struggling with a knee injury, and with the T20 World Cup just over the horizon, Darren Lehmann has decided not to risk his most mercurial of talents.
With Maxwell out and Lyon struggling for form, one of the Big Bash’s stand out spinners, Cameron Boyce, may crack the nod for the first T20. The 26-year-old Queensland land native has been joined by fellow Big Bash standouts, Travis Head, Andrew Tye and Chris Lynn in the Australian T20 squad. All four players are likely to be given a run out at some point in the three-match ODI T20 series.
I think Lehmann will look to his old heads for the first T20. One of the vets who’s likely to play a key role in this games is Dave Warner. The maverick opening bat was impressive during the ODI segment of the bi-lateral series and I expect him to kick on in the T20s.
After failing to capitalize on some fantastic opportunities to bring themselves back into the ODI series, India were probably contemplating how they were going to deal with a series white-wash heading into the final ODI. However, a determined team performance on Saturday ensured Ravi Shastri’s men go into the T20 series with some confidence.
India actually put in some decent displays during their 4-1 series defeat. Their top order shone with the bat in hand but their bowlers and lower middle order just couldn’t provide enough support. They’re likely to be a lot more competitive in the T20 series however, as this is the format of the game that their bowling line up tend to do the best in. The reason for this is that the nucleus of their bowling line up consists of spinners. As we all know, slower bowlers tend to excel in the shortest format of the game where batsmen are looking to find the boundary off every ball. Mistimed shots due to batsmen trying to force the scoring, means this format of the game is tailor-made for slower bowlers.
With the above paragraph in mind, the likes of Ravi Ashwin, Yuvraj Singh, and Ravi Jadeja are likely to play key roles with the ball. The trio are all notoriously good at changing up their pace and with the Australian batting order missing their best player of spin, Glen Maxwell, I expect all three bowlers will be bowling their full four over quotas.
Their top order batsmen are also going to have to play big roles. Rohit Sharma was in spectacular form during the ODI series notching up two hundreds and a 99. Another man who’s likely to be just as key as Sharma is Virat Kohli. The controversial, right handed batsmen, also notched up two hundreds during the ODI series. While Kohli and Sharma have been in great touch, MS Dhoni has been struggling. The former Indian skipper has looked labored at the wicket. He is going to need to put this slump behind him however as the Indian top five have to fire if they are in with a chance of winning the first T20
Verdict: India 18/10
It’s a bit of a risk, and I certainly wouldn’t wager my house on it, but with Australians missing some of their key players, I think India could well take a lead an early lead in the series.
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