The nature of a three-match series is such that just one game in, a team will be in a do-or-die scenario. It's India who find themselves in such a situation after losing the first match in Sydney by 34 runs. One more slip at Adelaide on Tuesday (January 15), and the series will be gone. That will be a blow for a side that entered the series as clear favourites. India were the in-form, and more settled of the two sides. Australia had an inexperienced line-up, and came into the series after a year filled with losses. Yet, it was India who seemed rusty. It wasn't like Australia outplayed India completely. India did well to keep Australia to 288 for 5 on a flat track, despite three Australian batsmen scoring half-centuries and another coming within three runs of the landmark. It was the batting which let India down. Rohit Sharma did score a stupendous 129-ball 133, but he was left with way too much to do with little support from the other end at the beginning and the end. It was a knock that had come after India were 4 for 3; Shikhar Dhawan fell for a first-ball duck, Virat Kohli and Ambati Rayudu fell within a space of three balls. That India even had a bit of chance from there was down largely to Rohit.
Rohit did receive support from Dhoni for the fourth wicket, but it also came at the cost of the run-rate. Dhoni helped arrest a collapse with sturdy defence, but his 51 took as many as 96 balls. And just when he seemed to get going, a bad umpiring decision, and the unavailability of the review, cost him his wicket. Neither Dinesh Karthik nor Ravindra Jadeja hung around enough for Rohit to finish the game. But a large part of that was also due to some splendid bowling. Jhye Richardson, who bagged four wickets, seems like one for the future. He's nippy and sharp with the new ball, and also has a deceptive slower one for the death. India have to counter him, and Jason Behrendorff, quickly. India will feel that they can target the other Australian bowlers. Nathan Lyon's off-spin isn't as much a threat in one-dayers as it was in the Tests. India have a side largely filled with right-handers, and they wouldn't mind taking on Lyon. Peter Siddle and Marcus Stoinis were expensive in the first game too. Australia might not change a winning combination so early, but they might consider playing Adam Zampa as the lone spinner given he can take the ball away from the Indian batsmen. Mitchell Marsh has recovered from illness and is available for selection too, but it's hard to see where he'll fit in immediately. Adelaide is burning at close to 40 degrees, making things difficult as well.
Australia could have got more with the bat but they will be pleased with their show. Over the last couple of years, they have struggled to bat out 50 overs. In Sydney, they did that comfortably, and with wickets to spare. They got decent partnerships through the middle overs and had wickets in hand for the final push. That they got 93 runs from the last 10 overs was down to their steady batting in the middle phase. Aaron Finch and Alex Carey, the openers, didn't contribute much but the next three batsmen made half-centuries. Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh negotiated the spinners in the middle overs to set the base. Peter Handscomb then batted in a busy fashion, top-scoring with a 61-ball 73. Stoinis too made an effective, unbeaten 47. That Australia got close to 290 with Glenn Maxwell facing just five balls should please them. India missed Jasprit Bumrah at the death. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was effective early but was hit around in the latter stages. Mohammed Shami was effective but wicketless. Khaleel Ahmed was seen as the weak-link. Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja were tidy, but couldn't prevent partnerships in the middle overs. India even had Ambati Rayudu bowling a couple of overs, but with him being reported for a suspect action, they might have to look elsewhere for a sixth bowling option. Will they get in Kedar Jadhav for Dinesh Karthik?It's India who are left with these questions to answer, while Australia aim their first one-day series win in two years.