(Photo:Action Images via Reuters)
Australia will be disappointed to lose the first match in Chennai on Sunday after they reduced India to 5-87, only to let victory slip through their fingers. Harik Pandya and MS Dhoni swung the game in India’s favour during a match-winning stand of 118, and the tourists failed in a revised target of 164 off 21 overs. But the Aussies can take heart from a battling performance as they head into the second of the five-strong ODI series. They seem on an upward curve ahead of their winter clashes with England, and their improving form could cause consternation among Joe Root and co.
The visitors were firmly in control at 5-87. They got off to a sensational start and reduced India to 3-11 in a brilliant opening salvo. Nathan Coulter-Nile was in inspired form and ripped through India’s opening order with a new ball. In his first spell NCN posted 3-12 off just five overs, claiming the scalp of Virat Kohli in spectacular fashion. It was a great return for a man playing his first ODI in more than a year, and Australian fans will pray he can stay healthy as he is a devastating weapon. He staked a claim for a place in the World Cup in 2019 if he keeps this up as the pace, bounce and swing he gets is a terrifying blend when he is on song.
But Australia let India get out of jail. The hosts’ recovery was steady until the 47th over, when it exploded into life. Pandya hit a four before three consecutive sixes that sent him close to 60, and he and Dhoni went on to win the match for their team. “Obviously at 5-87 it was 70% on Australia’s side and a wicket more would have brought it on to the lower-order,” said India’s Yuzvendra Chahal. “But the way they [Dhoni and Pandya] batted and the momentum that we got from the Zampa over and it carried on. And this wicket 270-8 is a winning total.”
Australia took a collective foot off the pedal, dropped the intensity and allowed India back into the match. For Australian fans it had uncomfortable echoes of their team’s performances in Bangladesh earlier this summer, when they struggled to capitalise on fast starts. Mitchell Starc is a clear miss.
A lengthy mid-innings rain delay led to Australia chasing a revised target of 164, but they got off to a poor start. Jasprit took the wickets of Hildon Cartwright and Steve Smith in quick succession and Kuldeep Yadav dismissed David Warner on 25. Glen Maxwell stepped up to the crease in bullish form and clobbered three successive sixes of his own, but was eventually removed at 39 off 18 balls. Pandya finished 2-28, Yadav was 2-33 and Yuzvendra Chalal was 3-30, restricting Australia to just 137-9 and giving the hosts a 27-run victory in the rain-soaked stadium.
The series is now delicately poised: India are the favourites to win it, and given their home advantage that makes sense, but the most likely series score for the bookmakers is 3-2, meaning a tight series is anticipated. Attention now turns to the second ODI in Kolkata, where the rain is likely to be a factor again. If Australia can keep up their excellent run against Virat Kohli and bowl consistently with the level of ferocity they found at the start of the last ODI, they will have a great chance, and it is looking interesting from a betting perspective. If you like to bet on sports, check out a breakdown of Intertops, the world’s oldest online bookmaker, and make sure you take advantage of market leading odds. India 4/6 favourites and Australia are an attractive 11/8. Australia should learn from their mistakes and will cause the Indians trouble in this second ODI, so the longer odds look enticing.