After a somewhat surprising defeat at the hands of India in the first T20 International at the Adelaide Oval, Aaron Finch and Australia will be looking to exact revenge on MS Dhoni and his side at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday morning.
Can the Aussies level the three-match series or will India bounce back after a disappointing 4-1 loss in the ODI series.
To Win Match *Expected odds
Let me start this segment of the preview off by saying that I really don’t think Shaun Tait should be anywhere near the Australian limited overs set-up. While he still possesses deadly pace, he’s nowhere near consistent enough in terms of his lines and lengths to be seriously considered for the Aussie national side.
One would presume he was picked off the back of his performances in the recently concluded KFC Big Bash. However, looking through the competitions’ best bowlers, I’d liked to have seen Clint McKay crack the nod ahead of Tait. The Sydney Thunder seamer had an almost flawless tournament, topping the wicket-taking charts with 18 dismissals in just 10 games. McKay has the experience, too. He’s represented Australia in all three formats of the game and will have been gutted to miss out on the T20 squad.
Australia’s three frontline bowlers were far too expensive, each of them conceding over 40 runs in their four overs. Thankfully for the hosts, however, Shane Watson – recalled to the squad after a solid Big Bash performance with the Thunder – pulled things back a bit for Australia as he picked up two wickets and conceded just 24 runs in his allotted overs.
Having been set 188 to win to win, the hosts were crying out for someone to carry their bat through the innings. Aaron Smith and David Warner got the hosts off to the perfect start as they powered to 47 after just five overs before Warner was easily caught at mid-wicket by Kohli off the bowling of Jasprit Bumrah.
Steve Smith walked out to the crease to join his captain and the two began rebuilding the innings before they were dismissed in consecutive overs. Cue the Australian collapse that would eventually lead to their defeat. They would go on to lose their last nine wickets for a paltry 62 runs as the din from the Indian fans in the Adelaide Oval grew louder with each dismissal.
Perhaps it’s not too late to call Usman Khawaja. The Pakistani-born top order batsman has been in the form of life and will be itching to get back into the Australian limited overs set-up after almost single-handedly guiding the Sydney Thunder to their first Big Bash title with scores of 109*, 62, 104* and 70. He’ll probably not crack the nod for the remainder of the series, but you can’t blame me for wanting to see more of him, he’s simply a joy to watch.
Looking ahead, I don’t think there will be too many changes to the Australian side moving forward. They were unlucky to encounter Kohli in such belligerent mood. If anything, I’d give the attack another go at the MCG on Friday.
Virat Kohli once again stole the show for the Indians as he powered his way to 90 off just 71 balls. The talismanic batsman has been in mesmeric form during this tour scoring an incredible 471 runs in five One Day Internationals and one T20 International thus far.
Two other key performers for India in the first T20 were Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. The two off-spinners did a magnificent job of strangling the Australian batsmen, limiting the scoring while the likes of Yuvraj Singh and debutant Jasprit Bumrah were expensive as anything. Ashwin picked up the all-important wicket of Aaron Finch, who he trapped in front LBW.
It was India’s batsmen who did the bulk of the damage, however. Led by the mercurial Virat Kohli whose masterful display of strokemanship saw him race to an unbeaten 90 off just 71 balls. Rohit Sharma opened the batting with Shikhar Dhawan. The two put on 40 runs in the first four overs before Sharma was caught behind off the bowling of Watson. Dhawan would follow him back to the pavilion just three balls later after struggling to five runs off just eight balls.
His wicket brought Suresh Raina to the wicket who was initially happy to give all of the strike to Kohli before he also started tucking into the Aussie seamers. His dismissal two balls into the final over brough MS Dhoni to the crease who smashed his first ball for six over cow corner. He would follow that up by carving a full, wide Faulkner delivery over point for four more runs; the visitors eventually finishing on 188-3.
I think India will persist with the same team that got the job done against the Aussies at the Adelaide Oval. Everyone – aside from maybe Dhawan – contributed meaningfully to India’s victory. Even young debutant, Hardik Pandya came back to claim two wickets after a dreadful first saw him concede 19 runs while bowling four wides.
Verdict: Australia 8/13
The Aussies will be desperate to right the wrongs of Adelaide, and what better place to do so than at the majestic Melbourne Cricket Ground? They have more than enough firepower at the top of the order to make up with their inefficiencies with the ball. Back them to level the series at 8/13.
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