October 14, 2013 1:14:24 am
After Australias defeat in the one-off T20 at Rajkot,most of the criticism leveled against their bowlers revolved around their failure to test the Indian batsmen with short-pitched deliveries.
Like dutiful students,the Australian pace battery had practiced their bouncers under Punes afternoon sun on the eve of their ODI series opener at the MCA stadium. On Sunday,when they defended a total of 304 against the Indians,the copious amount of sweat their pacers had lost at the nets suddenly seemed worth it.
James Faulkner welcomed Yuvraj Singh to the crease with a couple of bouncers. The first one caused Yuvraj to tie himself up in knots as he fended the rising ball to point. The next one,bowled a couple of kph quicker,exploded off the southpaws bat and went over the square leg fence.
Next up was Mitchell Johnson,whose fiery first spell of three overs,in which he regularly clocked over 145 kph,had left Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma gasping for breath. The first ball that Johnson bowled to Yuvraj was a stinging yorker which the batsman barely managed to dig out. Next came a wide bouncer. Then,with Yuvraj expecting a change-up,Johnson delivered his piece de resistance. The left-armer put the ball just back of length but at a blinding 152 kph. Yuvrajs airy waft produced a thin edge and the ball ended up in Phillip Hughes gloves.
With Yuvraj gone,silence descended on the Pune crowd. It grew quieter when Ravindra Jadeja couldnt handle a Faulkner delivery that reared up; Jadejas attempted pull was pouched by a diving George Bailey at mid off. Skipper MS Dhoni soon followed,his off stump pegged back by the accurate Clint McKay. The Indian tail gamely stretched the match till the 50th over,but with the asking rate climbing above 10 an over after Dhonis dismissal,the result was never in question. In the end,the Australians won by a handsome 72-run margin.
At the beginning of the innings,Faulkner took out Shikhar Dhawan,as the left-hander attempted an unconvincing prod at a ball that seamed away a fraction. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli began in circumspect fashion,keeping things ticking over,striking a boundary every couple of overs. However,Sharma fell edging to the keeper while trying to dab a rising ball to third man without any semblance of foot movement.
Virat Kohli,who ended up as the top-scorer with a patient 61,briefly raised hopes,compiling a 71-run partnership with Suresh Raina,who was handed a promotion,coming in at number four. Raina though fell attempting his favoured slog over midwicket.
Australias captain,George Bailey,who shone with the bat earlier in the day with a measured 85,said that his fast men never deviated from the plan. The Australian pace attack seemed to concentrate on hitting a back-of-length area focussing on the off stump,which ensured that the Indian batsmen werent afforded any width to free their arms. Bailey said that after the first few overs,it was clear that dropping the odd ball a little short was helping the bowlers deceive the batsmen in pace,since some balls skidded on fast while others stopped on the batsman.
Johnson,who conceded only 38 in his ten overs,bowled at express pace abd led the line ably. McKay,though the slowest of the four Australian pacers,was definitely the most accurate. The 30-year-old got noticeable movement with the new as well as the old ball. His 10 overs went for just 36,fetching him two wickets,one of which was the prized scalp of Dhoni.
With the ball hurrying on to the batsman and with the extra yard of pace that the Australian bowlers produced,the Indian batsman were guilty of playing too many loose strokes,especially in Shikhar Dhawans case. It was evident that the left-hander simply couldnt get in position against Johnson,with outside edges and balls striking the splice of the bat hallmarks of his 15-ball stay.
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