If you are an Indian cricket fan who has lived through those painful memories of seeing Australia repeating squash their dreams at the World Cup stage, Sunday's performance should come as a moment to savor for all of you as Team India out-batted, out-bowled and out-fielded the Australians to inflict a 36-run loss on the World Champions. The victory also ended a plethora of streaks for Australia: 10-game winning streak, 19-year proud record of not losing while chasing in a World Cup game. It also turned out to be the game where Australia, for the first time, in their World Cup history ended up chasing a target in excess of 300.
It was a near-perfect day for Team India. It was also a day where the might of their batting flexed its muscles with disdain. In the past four years, the story of India's batting has revolved around their top-3. Prior to this World Cup, the trio had scored 42 of the 51 tons that the Men in Blue had scored. If Rohit does not get you, Shikhar will. If both fail, Virat will surely win. And, the template for their past success was on full show today. Unlike England's top-3, the approach of India's top-3: consolidate at the top without losing a wicket, is typically old-school but might effective. And, the openers did just that.
The duo played out the opening burst of Starc and Cummins cautiously, scoring just 22 runs off the first seven overs. But, Dhawan looked in cracking touch today. His struggles against the left-arm bowlers have been well documented and were one of the major talking points in the leadup to the game. But, on Sunday, with a subtle change in his stance, the left-hander put up a masterclass to lay a match-winning platform for his side. It was a simple change- batting on leg-stump, and even occasionally outside- to help him survive Strac's menace. The left-hander, after batting out Starc's spell, took the attack to Australia's first-change Nathan Coulter Nile by smoking for three boundaries in the 8th over. That over set the ball rolling for Dhawan as well as India, as the duo took the attack to Zampa and NCN to rack up 89 runs off the next 12 and put the pressure back on the Australians.
Coulter-Nile finally got his lengths right in his second spell as he helped Australia get a much-needed wicket of Rohit Sharma, who after being to ride the bounce edged straight to Carey. Australia attacked Kohli with the wide of the off-stump line but at Dhawan at the other end continued to peg the Aussies back with his delightful strokeplay.
There were obstacles too. Dhawan was hit on his left-thumb by a Pat Cummins when he was batting on 22, and the left-hander batted despite the pain in what was really a monumental effort. And, we saw everything. There was his typical swivel on the leg-side, cracking square-cuts and it came with fitting rewards. The left-hander reaffirmed his love for ICC events by stroking his sixth ton. Only Ganguly and Tendulkar have more .
Post Dhawan's dismissal, India sent in Hardik Pandya which eventually turned out to be the masterstroke. Pandya came to the crease with the score reading at 2-220 in the 37th over and set the ball rolling with a powerful straight-drive off Nathan Coulter Nile. Even Pat Cummins suffered at the hands of Pandya in his last spell, and by the time the all-rounder was dismissed, he had blazed away to a 27-ball 48.
Virat Kohli upped the ante after scoring a rather scratchy half-century while MS Dhoni and KL Rahul stroked a few lusty blows in the end to steer the total past 350 [5-352]. If Australia were to have any chance of making a fist out of the run-chase it was necessary that David Warner and Aaron Finch provided them a blazing start. It, off-course did not happen, and there were twofold reasons for it.
Firstly, David Warner looked a pale shadow of his former self. The left-hander was very tentative in his approach and was just not able to line-up the Indian bowlers, and if not for that unmoved zing bails, his innings would have been over in Bumrah's first over itself. Secondly, Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The major reason why Warner was unable to break free in the powerplay was due to Bhuvi cramping his SRH teammate for a room outside the off-stump; something Warner thrives on.
Finch, on the other hand, looked to be settling into a good rhythm after he had smoked Hardik Pandya for 19 runs in the last over of the first powerplay but fateful indecision while running between the wickets led to his downfall. Steven Smith, unlike Warner, looked in complete control during his innings both against the spinners as well as the fast bowlers. But with the net run-rate zooming past the unreachable zone, the pressure eventually got to Warner, who holed out to Chahal in the deep after scoring the slowest half-century of his career.
Usman Khawaja made good use of the sweep, especially against Kuldeep, and scored an enterprising 39-ball 42. But, the pressure of the asking rate, forced Khawaja to play unorthodox cricket which eventually led to his downfall when he was bowled while trying to ramp Jasprit Bumrah. Glenn Maxwell came to the crease in the 39th over and made a statement straightaway with a cracking on-drive off Bumrah. The next two overs saw Maxwell and Smith six boundaries- three each off Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah- to infuse some life into the contest.
Do you know?
This was Team India's 50th ODI win over Australia.
With Maxwell in red-hot form and Smith ever-so steady, India needed their ace bowling pair of Bhuvi and Bumrah to step up. And, Bhuvi did just that. The right-hander claimed Smith and Stoinis in the space of three balls to sway the momentum once again in India's favor. And, Kohli's next move to bring in Chahal virtually ended the contest. Chahal v Maxwell has been one the storied rivalries in white-ball cricket in the past 24 months. And, this time it was Chahal who got the better of Maxwell as Jadeja completed a great diving catch after the former had mistimed the slog sweep.
In the end, a great cameo from Alex Carey [55 off 35 balls] ensured the margin of defeat [by 36 runs] does not reflect the stark difference between the two sides and the eventual one-sided nature of the contest. Australia's streak of winning ten games on the bounce started with their victory over India back in March and it was fittingly ended by the same opponent today.
Match in Brief-
India [5-352, Dhawan 117, Kohli 82, Stoinis 2-62] beat Australia [316, Smith 69, Bhuvneshwar 3-50] by 36 runs