India’s cricket team opened their One-Day series in Australia by posting an impressive score of 309 off the back of a scintillating 171 from Rohit Sharma. Yet once again they sunk to defeat Down Under. In the first of five One-Day International matches between the two rivals, it was Australia who drew first blood, continuing their dominant record over India on home soil with a five-wicket win in Perth on Tuesday.
Under pressure captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and opted to bat, and his team did that decision justice, with a 207-run stand for the second wicket between Sharma and Virat Kohli giving India a total of 309 for the loss of just three wickets. Yet Australia captain Steven Smith plundered his best ever 50-over score of 149 and former captain George Bailey added 112 in a 242-run third-wicket partnership. In the end Australia reached 310 and a record chase at the Western Australia Cricket Association Ground (WACA) with four balls to spare.
India had gone into the tour, which will also see the two teams play three Twenty20 matches, with plenty of doubts hanging over their heads. After a World Cup semifinal loss to Australia, in Australia, last year, Dhoni then led the One-Day side to series defeats against Bangladesh and South Africa. The focus heading to Australia had been on Dhoni’s captaincy and his place in a middle order that has struggled for runs. Yet the veteran had no complaints about his batsmen, despite the suggestion that, with wickets in hand, they could have pushed on more toward the end of the innings.
“You have to look at what could have been a good score,” he said in his post-match press conference at the WACA. “As I said 310 was a very good score. They batted really well, still they got it in the last over, which means I feel if we had bowled slightly better we could have put more pressure on them, maybe induced a few big shots quite early in the innings, but that wasn’t the case.”
After the withdrawal through injury of Mohammed Shami, the primary concern on the bowling front going into the first ODI had been over India’s pace options. Yet the trio chosen held their own. Particularly impressive was debutante Barinder Sran, who took the wickets of both Australian openers, Aaron Finch and David Warner. Instead it was the performance of India’s spinners that proved costly. In-form Ravichandran Ashwin went for an expensive 68 runs and eight boundaries from nine overs, while the reliable Ravindra Jadeja went for 61.
“Yesterday when I was speaking about it, I thought more about the fast bowlers if they don’t have a very good day, I have to use the spinner,” Dhoni said. “I never thought it would be the spinners that would have a very bad day and the others would have to share the responsibility. It’s a tricky one, still if you see the bowling department, the fast bowlers did a very good job, it was the spinners that could have done better.”
Given the uncharacteristic nature of the spinners’ failure and the fact that the pitch in Perth is particularly friendly to fast bowlers, it would seem unlikely that there will be changes to the lineup that takes to the field for the second ODI in Brisbane on Friday. The big selection decision on Tuesday saw Dhoni opt for Manish Pandey over fellow inexperienced squad member Gurkeerat Singh at No. 6. With Gurkeerat’s ability to bowl off-break, he could be a consideration for match two, although Dhoni didn’t appear convinced by his bowling credentials.
“If you see the batsmen the only other one is Gurkeerat, whether we can or cannot use him, or how good he is as a bowler. I have not seen much of him, but he does bowl a few in the domestic circuit.”
There will, though, certainly be changes for Australia. Warner has left the squad as his wife awaits the birth of their second child, and has been replaced by in-form Usman Khawaja. Meanwhile, Josh Hastings has been called in for all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, who has been rested for the second match. Australia may also take a look at the places of their two debutant bowlers, Joel Paris and Scott Boland, both of whom endured tough, wicketless introductions to international cricket in Perth.