So, it finally happened. India lost a T20I against Australia after seven consecutive wins. And as it turned out, it wasn’t even a close affair in Guwahati. Australia outplayed India to ensure that the series stays alive heading into the final game in Hyderabad on Friday.
Here are the talking points from what was a very convincing performance by Australia:
The real Australia did stand up
It’s taken seven matches for the real Australian side to show up on this tour. The overriding feeling during the limp ODI series defeat was that the famed Aussie spirit was nowhere to be seen. The team that used to fight till the very last ball, the team that used to pluck victories from the jaws of defeats, was missing in action. It was a weird Australian experience, truth be told, with Steve Smith and Co failing to make positions of advantage count.
But in Guwahati, like Harsha Bhogle said on air, the Australian team “literally dominated from the very first over” to ensure a win in a must-not-lose situation. The pressure was relentless thoroughout the game and except for the brief period when David Warner and Aaron Finch departed early, the Aussies were never in danger of losing this match.
Now that’s what we are used to seeing from the men in yellow.
Ever since the ODI series against Sri Lanka began, the narrative behind India’s bowling has been the same. That the wrist spinners (in the company of Axar Patel) have been the answer to Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja’s mediocre form with the white ball. Virat Kohli has been effusive in his praise of the two wrist spinners at his disposal but on Tuesday night the duo couldn’t prevent the Aussie batsmen from romping towards the target with ease.
Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendar Chahal conceded 75 runs in 7.3 overs with Kuldeep especially having a day to forget as he bowled too many boundary balls to Travis Head and Moises Henriques – mostly on the shorter side.
But here’s the thing. Even with a low target to defend and even with Aussies clearly going after them, the duo were not hesitant to flight the ball up. Either because of their captain’s advice or by their own volition, they gave the ball loop and tried to tempt the batsman into making a mistake. Head almost did on a couple of occasions but his mistimed shots fell in no man’s land.
“Play your natural game,” is a phrase used for attacking batsmen all the time (and annoyingly so) but on Tuesday night, the only way India could have won after posting 118 was if they picked up regular wickets – Kuldeep and Chahal couldn’t deliver, but they at least showed courage in their conviction.
Rohit Sharma’s ‘Amir’ problem
Remember Asia Cup 2016? Remember Champions Trophy 2017? Remember Rohit Sharma saying Mohammad Amir is not an extra ordinary bowler and then getting dismissed by him in three out of the four matches India played Pakistan since? There’s a weakness that’s become evident in that phase.
The best way to get Rohit Sharma out early (and you better do, because if he gets going, he makes it count) is to have a left arm seamer bowl full, straight and shape the ball every so slightly back into him. Rohit has repeatedly shown a propensity to be struck on the crease and that’s exactly what the brilliant Jason Behrendorff exploited in Guwahati. He started with a very wide full toss, followed that up with a good length outside off that was going with the angle – a perfect set up for the inswinger that followed next. Rohit fell, hook, line and sinker.
With most of the top cricketing nations having at least one good left arm seamer in their limited overs lineup, this is a weakness Rohit must iron out from his game and quickly.