Rohit Sharma blasted his 22nd century and MS Dhoni hit his 68th fifty. In normal situations, these contributions from India’s top batsmen would not end up in a loss. However, their disastrous start, where India were reduced to 4/3 in four overs in pursuit of 289, proved to be the difference maker as Virat Kohli’s side suffered a 34-run loss in the Sydney ODI to go 0-1 down in the three-game series on Saturday. The gulf between the two sides was the batting. While Australia had contributions from Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb and Marcus Stoinis, the Indian batting was wholly reliant on Rohit’s 133 as the rest of the batsmen contributed just 106.
Aaron Finch chose to bat on an SCG wicket which was good for batting but the skipper became Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s 100th ODI victim, dragging a full back on to the stumps for 6. Alex Carey and Usman Khawaja looked to rebuild but Carey was undone in Kuldeep Yadav’s first over as the chinaman bowler got a flatter ball to bounce a bit more and Carey was cramped for the cut to edge to Rohit for 24. However, Khawaja had a good ally in Shaun Marsh and both batsmen focused on rebuilding the innings. Both batsmen found the boundaries at regular intervals and stitched a solid stand.
Kohli tried to break the stand using many bowling combinations but the introduction of Ambati Rayudu in the attack released the pressure as Khawaja slammed two boundaries. Rayudu’s ineffective bowling was in effect a tactical blunder by Kohli who left out Kedar Jadhav, who could have bowled much better in the middle overs. Ravindra Jadeja, included in the side for Hardik Pandya, made the breakthrough with Khawaja falling for 59.
Peter Handscomb got going with two boundaries off Bhuvneshwar Kumar while Shaun Marsh notched up his 13th fifty by hammering two boundaries off the wayward Khaleel Ahmed. Although Kuldeep got Marsh for 54, the platform was set for Australia to notch up a big total.
End overs momentum
Australia had not scored a boundary for 44 deliveries but Handscomb and Stoinis changed the momentum dramatically by slamming two sixes in the final over bowled by Kuldeep. Handscomb’s second fifty gave Australia tremendous momentum as Stoinis was also looking set. The right-hander from Victoria hammered two more boundaries off Bhuvneshwar and threated a century with a pulled six off Bhuvneshwar to long leg as Rayudu spilled the catch. However, Handscomb carved a short ball to deep cover to hole out to Shikhar Dhawan for 73. Stoinis ended the innings in style with a blazing 47* as Australia hit 93 runs in the last 10 overs to finish on a competitive 288/5.
Disaster for India
In response, India had no answer to the pace of Jason Behrendorff and Jhye Richardson. Behrendorff trapped Dhawan LBW for 0 while Richardson, who began with a maiden, got the massive wicket of Kohli for 3 which was the captain’s first single digit score in 22 innings. The previous time he was dismissed for a single digit score was 0 by Australia in the Chennai ODI of 2017. Ambati Rayudu (0) was trapped LBW by Richardson and even a review could not overturn the decision, putting India in a precarious position.
MS Dhoni, under pressure for failing to contribute with the bat, took his time to get going. When he got an inside edge to Behrendorff, he reached 10000 runs as a keeper for India. Rohit, at the other end, slammed two sixes to keep the scoring rate healthy. After consuming 35 balls for six runs, everyone wondered what Dhoni’s approach was but he blasted a six off Nathan Lyon to signal his intentions.
The 138-run stand kept India in the hunt and Dhoni notched up his 68th fifty, silencing critics for the time being. However, when he was dismissed LBW by Behrendorff for 51, replays showed that the ball pitched outside the line of leg stump but he was given out. Unfortunately, India did not have any reviews remaining as Rayudu had used up the only review of the match. Rohit, though, was not ruffled and he got closer to his century with three boundaries off Peter Siddle.
With wickets tumbling at the other end and the asking rate mounting up, Rohit slammed his 22nd century and seventh against Australia. He also smashed a world record when it comes to six-hitting. His tally of six sixes took his number of sixes against Australia to 64, going past Shahid Afridi’s world record. With Rohit hitting sixes at will, it seemed India could pull off a heist but when he holed out to Glenn Maxwell off Stoinis, the end came pretty quickly.
The 34-run win gives Australia a chance to seal the series in the second game in Adelaide on January 15. However, the Sydney win has given a new-look Australia, 80s retro jersey and all a fine start.