Australia were playing an ODI for the first time since the World Cup last year and they were arguably facing one of the best one-day sides in their backyard – India in India. And yet they had no problems winning the game, showing, in the process, that they had planned for India’s main batsmen, prepared for subcontinent conditions and had players capable of executing them perfectly.
Finch brings his captaincy A game to India
At one point in India’s innings it looked like Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul were going to lead them towards 300 with their century partnership. Mitchell Starc’s and Pat Cummins’ first spells had been seen off and the two batsmen were tackling the spinners without trouble.
Finch was not giving up though. When Adam Zampa bowled to Rahul, he blocked the cover region with two fielders – short cover and extra cover – to stop him from playing his fluid drives on the off side that fetched him plenty of runs against West Indies and Sri Lanka. But Australia needed wickets and Finch decided to change ends for Ashton Agar. The bowler struck immediately by dismissing Rahul, and Finch now had an opening. He brought back his (current) best fast bowler, and Cummins struck straightaway with a length delivery. The ball was sticking on the Wankhede pitch on Tuesday and Dhawan popped a leading edge to cover and both the set batsmen were gone.
The Zampa v Kohli contest
Everyone would have thought of the challenges fast bowlers Cummins and Starc would pose for Virat Kohli. But Finch had faith in someone else. Someone who had dismissed the India captain three times in previous ODIs. Adam Zampa. After Kohli pulled a half-tracker for six, the legspinner replied with a sharp return catch next ball.
It was a half-volley and it had been smashed back down the pitch but Zampa stretched his arms over his head and grabbed the ball with both hands, and just like that Kohli was gone, for just 16. Overall, Zampa has bowled to Kohli in seven innings and picked him up four times. That’s well worth conceding 126 runs off 97 balls.
Even when Zampa had bowled earlier, he sent down a tidy spell of seven overs for 34, tossing the ball up, bowling on the stumps and using the crease well to make his wrong ‘uns more threatening. The 27-year old conceded only two fours in the first spell, repaying the faith of his captain and continuing the impressive work from last year’s ODIs in India when he had taken 11 wickets, only behind Cummins’ 14, with an average of 25.81 and economy rate of 5.68.
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The return of Mitchell Starc
With Kohli gone, India were 156 for 4, and Finch saw another opening into the hosts’ inexperienced middle order. So he brought back Starc for his fifth bowling change in seven overs.
Starc was playing only his second ODI in India and he did not start the way he would have liked while opening the bowling: there was no swing from his end and he was taken for two fours by Rohit Sharma in the first over. Seeing the lack of movement, he bowled a cross-seam delivery at 147.7 kph on a good length to Sharma, who miscued it to mid-off for his first breakthrough.
Now back in the attack in the 33rd over, with Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer in the middle, Starc served a mixed bag to Iyer. He pushed the batsman on the back foot with a mean short ball that Iyer negotiated a bit awkwardly for a single to the leg side.
When he got back on strike two balls later, Starc went full and used the angle from over the wicket to make Iyer play away from his body. Iyer was caught behind for 4 off 9 balls.
Aaron Finch kisses the badge on his helmet AFP
India slipped to 165 for 5 at that point and never really recovered. Starc and Finch can take credit for that too. The Australia captain had saved three of his spearhead’s overs for the end and asked him to do just one thing. Bowl yorker after yorker after yorker.
The first ball of Starc’s final spell, Shardul Thakur lobbed a catch to long-on which Kane Richardson put down. The next ball, Starc was only a tad inaccurate with the yorker with DRS saving Mohammed Shami after Michael Gough had ruled him out lbw. On the last ball of the over, Starc nailed the yorker, right on the base of off stump, and Thakur didn’t have any reply for it.
The angles changed, the batsmen changed, but Starc’s plans stayed the same. He conceded a few too many boundaries towards the end off low full tosses, but his job was done and he ended with 3 for 56 from his 10 overs.
Starc returned to India after nearly three years. Australia were playing an ODI after more than six months. Neither looked out of place.
With inputs from Gaurav Sundararaman