Thanks to last over heroics from Jhye Richardson and Pat Cummins, Australia picked up a three-wicket win over India in the first T20I at Visakhapatnam on Sunday.
India were put into bat first by Australian captain Aaron Finch, and KL Rahul gave them the early momentum with two flicks off his pads in the second over of the innings by Jhye Richardson, both going for a boundary.
But in the third over as Rohit Sharma tried to flick Jason Behrendorff over short fine leg, the ball looped up to give Adam Zampa an easy catch, India losing their first wicket for fourteen runs.
Rahul’s assault on Richardson continued with two fours off his second over, and Kohli targeted Nathan Coulter-Nile in the next to help India race to 49/1 in six overs.
Adam Zampa was brought into the attack to reign things in for Australia, and he succeeded in his second over dismissing Kohli for a quick-fire 24 off 17 balls leaving India at 69/2.
Rishabh Pant was the next batsman in, promoted up the order to number 4, but his stint at the pitch was short-lived, run-out for three runs after Jason Behrendorff displayed superb athleticism with Pant trying to sneak a cheeky single off D’arcy Short’s bowling.
It was a matter of time before Rahul brought up his fifty off 35 balls in the eleventh over, but lost his wicket to Nathan Coulter-Nile in the very next over.
Dinesh Karthik was dismissed in the same over, as Coulter-Nile pierced his defences with the ball crashing straight into the stumps. Dismissed for one run and with the score reading 94/5, India found themselves in all kinds of trouble by the 14th over.
It got worse for the hosts when Krunal Pandya was caught for one by Glenn Maxwell, Coulter-Nile striking once again. Dhoni and the next batsman Umesh Yadav tried to steady the ship, but the hosts’ cause wasn’t helped when the latter was trapped in front of the stumps by Pat Cummins with the score reading 109.
The Australian bowlers did well to contain India for the remainder of the innings, and the hosts ended their innings on 126/7.
In reply, Australia couldn’t have asked for a worse start, with Marcus Stoinis run-out after some confusion between him and D’arcy Short in the second over, and captain Aaron Finch LBW off the bowling off Jasprit Bumrah for a first ball duck to leave the hosts reeling at 5/2.
It was left to the pair of Short and Glenn Maxwell to pick up the pieces, and Maxwell showed intent with two fours off Yadav’s bowling in fourth over. The explosive batsman took the lead and dictated the tempo of the Australian innings, with Short plugging the hole at the other end.
Even as Indian captain Virat Kohli regularly rotated the bowlers between debutant Mayank Markande, Yadav, Bumrah and Chahal, the Australians made light work of the chase for the majority of the innings on a pitch that offered very little to the bowlers.
With scoreboard pressure not an issue for Australia, Maxwell and Short rotated the strike at will, putting together a partnership of 84 runs off 68 balls. However, batting on 56, Maxwell perished with the score at 89 when he was caught by Rahul off the bowling of Yuzvendra Chahal to give India a glimmer of hope.
The glimmer would soon turn into a bright light at the end of the tunnel for the hosts, when Short went back to the pavilion as well 12 runs later – a fortuitous run-out, completely brought upon by avoidable confusion between Short and Peter Handscomb.
The twin strikes in quick succession gave India new vigour in the field. The fielders closed in quicker, the lines became tighter and the Australian batsmen rushed through their shots.
Australia invited more pressure on themselves when Ashton Turner decided dab the ball down fine leg with a paddle-sweep, but ended up missing it, with Krunal Pandya’s ball crashing into middle stump. The score read 102/5 in 16.2 overs.
Mayank Markande bowled a superb 18th over that only went for five runs, and the equation boiled down to Australia needing 16 runs off the last two overs. Bumrah, bowling the 19th, picked up his 50th T20I wicket as Handscomb charged down the pitch and tried to heave the ball over mid-wicket, the pressure clearly telling.
The ball looped up, and Dhoni made no mistake in pouching it.
The next ball, Bumrah bowled a perfect in-swinging Yorker that sneaked under Coulter-Nile’s bat and sent the stumps flying. Australia needed 14 runs off the last over, with Umesh Yadav bowling it.
If the match seemed like a foregone conclusion at this point, Jhye Richardson and Pat Cummins proved otherwise. Richardson picked up eight runs off the first four balls of the over, which included a four.
Cummins took strike for the last two balls and with six runs needed. A wide delivery by Umesh Yadav was punished through the covers for four. With two needed off the last ball and the prospect of a super over looming, Cummins hit the ball down the wicket, and the Australian batsmen scrambled home to pick up a win which ideally should have been much more comfortable, considering the position they were in earlier in the game.
On the other hand, India would be disappointed to concede the runs they did off the last over after getting themselves into a winning position.
With the three-wicket win, Australia took a 1-0 lead in the two match T20I series, with the next match to be played on Wednesday, February 27th.
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