India lost the toss but won the game. The difference was the format-change. Steven Smith learnt about the subtlety in the 50 and 20-over formats, when he decided to chase after winning the toss in the first of the three-match T-20 Series at the Adelaide Oval on Tuesday and paid the price by losing. It is a matter of conjecture now, as to what MS Dhoni would have done, if he had gotten lucky with the coin flip. The 1-0 lead in the T-20 Series bodes well for India with this format’s World Cup being just round the corner. On Tuesday, India began strongly by piling up 40 in the first 4 overs before losing two wickets in the fifth. However, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina carried India to a challenging 188 in 20 overs. Though the under 200-run chase wasn’t all that difficult for Australia and they had started off well, fall of 4 wickets for just 21 runs between 9th and the 14th overs set them back. Jasprit Bumrah had a dream debut by claiming 3 wickets for 23 in 4 overs. The other debutant Hardik Pandya also bagged two wickets but he was somewhat expensive. Consistent loss of wickets made it difficult for Australia as they were bowled out in 19.3 overs to lose by 37 runs.
India looked a better team than their 50-over performance showed in the recently concluded ODI Series. Despite losing the series 1-4, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma produced two centuries each and a couple of other good knocks. They carried their good batting form into the T-20 Series that began at Adelaide on January 26. The Aussie skipper Steven Smith won the toss and asked India to bat first. Smith’s decision might have been prompted by three Australian victories in chasing the scores in ODI games. However, batting first, India got off to a reasonably good start with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan putting on 40 for the first wicket in 4 overs. There was a temporary hiccup, when Rohit and Dhawan both fell in the fifth over by Shane Watson. Rohit had survived earlier, but this time he fell rather cheaply although he had done the bulk of scoring in making 31 off 20 balls to Dhawan’s 5 off 8. India were nonchalant as they had two of their best batsmen out in the middle. While Virat Kohli continued with his recent good form, Suresh Raina celebrated his arrival in T-20 games with gusto. The two of them went after Australia’s bowlers and forked out a crucial 134-run third-wicket stand. Raina got out in the 20th over for a nicely compiled 41 off 34 balls and although Virat Kohli couldn’t reach the three-figure mark, his 90 off 55 balls provided a solid foundation as India finished with 188/3.
Australia began the 189-run chase in cavalier fashion with both David Warner and Aaron Finch looking in ominous form. They remained un-separated until the 6th over, when Warner was the first to fall. It was also the first wicket for the debut bowler Jasprit Bumrah, who confused Warner with his unorthodox action. After Warner was caught by Kohli at mid-on, Australia added another 42 for the second wicket before Kohli also took Smith’s catch off Ravindra Jadeja. Australia were still in the game, because the scoring rate was good and Finch was stroking well. Suddenly, wickets began to tumble. Finch followed Smith and debut batsman Travis Head couldn’t get going. When Shane Watson also got out in the 14th over, Australia had slumped to 110/5. With India’s bowlers applying pressure, Australia lost their last 5 wickets for the addition of another 41 runs and fell short by 37 runs.
The victory in the first T-20 game should work as a morale booster for the Indian team, especially since ICC T-20 World Cup is not far away. Cricket managers in India have been working for the right combination for the tournament and they can derive a few clues from the victory. Rohit Sharma and player-of-the-match Virat Kohli are in good nick and although Shikhar Dhawan couldn’t score at Adelaide, he had also been among runs during this Australian tour. Young Jaspit Bumrah has shown promise in the two games that were his debut matches. Hardik Pandya also got his chance and though he was caned, he still got two wickets. With India losing only 3 wickets in the match, nothing could be known about Yuvraj Singh’s form but Suresh Raina made good use of the opportunity that he got. Ashish Nehra came back in Indian squad after a long time and though he got only a solitary wicket, he didn’t prove too expensive in his four overs.