Before coming to the match, we must mention the most heartening thing about cricket new normal: for the first time in 8 months crowds were allowed at the Sydney Cricket Ground, of course, up to 50% of the stadium’s capacity. However, some of stands were seen to be packed to the brim, and in general, masks were not being worn nor social distancing kept. It is not clear how the bio-bubble is going to help in this crowded environment. We hope this does not translate into an indiscretion as far as the pandemic spread is concerned as crowds ranging from 50 to 65 capacities are going to be allowed for all the remaining matches of the India Tour of Australia-2020-21 including the Tests.
Australia have beaten India by 66 runs in the first one-day international match of the three-match Dettol Odi Series in Sydney today, giving the long-missed home crowds much to cheer. The moment the Aussies put up a mammoth target of 375 runs before India many cynics might have written off the visitors having any chance of winning or even fighting back. However, considering the pitch that was full of runs and India’s fabulous batting depth the match was still full of probabilities, of India winning or giving a tough fight or losing ultimately.
Wining the toss and electing to bat first, the Aussies, fresh from IPL-2020, attacked from the word go with Finch and Smith notching up respective super tons, Warner missing one and Maxwell somewhat venting his IPL-frustration with a quickfire 45. For India all the bowlers except Mohammad Shami who captured 3 for 59 were ineffectual and expensive. A few blemishes on the field did not help their cause either. A challenge of a chase was thus set up for India, the only inspiration being that there were lots of blue-jersey supporters too in the half-capacity crowds.
India gave a fitting counter to the hosts launching a brutal assault on their bowlers from the opening overs, openers Dhawan and Mayank Agarwal (in absence of Rohit Sharma) going great guns. But it was too good to continue for long. Hazelwood struck in the sixth over to get rid of Agarwal for 22 runs. With skipper Kohli on the field as the no.3 batsman the momentum was not lost though. But then, Hazelwood struck a vital blow in the 10th over getting Kohli out for just 21 runs, and this possibly was the turning point of the match. Shreyas Iyer came and was gone in two balls, succumbing again to the lethal Hazelwood. While the Indian spinners struggled even to contain the batsmen Aussie spinner Zampa picked up a wicket in his very first over, that too of KL Rahul. India were 4 down for 101 in the 14th over. The match was as good as over.
It wasn’t. Dhawan and Pandya had much better ideas. They went about as if nothing had happened, notched up their respective half-centuries surviving a few chances and kept the chase well ahead of the required run-rate, reaching 200 runs in just 29 overs. The probabilities we mentioned earlier were fast turning into possibilities, and incredible ones at that. After the Hazelwood burst the Australian bowlers looked ordinary, and the Indian duo went on plundering runs with effortless ease. But it was not easy at all to sustain the chase till the winning run with not much batting to come.
Australia needed just one wicket to derail the momentum, and when spinner Zampa got rid of Shikhar Dhawan, after a brilliant partnership of 128 runs with Hardik Pandya, the end looked inevitable. India still needed 146 runs to win in 15 overs with the last recognized batting pair on the field, and the required run-rate beginning to rise and rise. Although Jadeja had been in top batting form the challenge ahead was far too daunting. When Pandya got out for 90 the match was finally all over for India. It was Zampa again, he ended with 4 for 54 runs. Wake up, Indian spinners!
In the final analysis the probabilities of the match did threaten to become possibilities, and the cynics were not exactly proved right. And Rohit Sharma was missed sorely. This match would inspire India too in terms of cricketing strategy, and the remaining two ODIs to be played in Sydney on 29th November and in Canberra on December 2 are going to be real exciting stuff. Keep enjoying, not with fed-in audio, but with real fans in the stadiums! Scorecard: