It was a belter of a surface at the WACA. So, in hindsight, a total of 309 that India posted batting first, was just about the par score. Still the visitors would see this as a missed opportunity. They had reduced Australia to 21/2 inside five overs with the debutant left-arm seamer Barinder Sran making a serious impression. The 23-year-old should have had George Bailey as well. The Australian middle-order batsman gloved the first ball he faced to MS Dhoni. But umpire Richard Kettleborough was unmoved and Bailey had a reprieve. He made it count, scoring 112 off 120 deliveries and putting on 242 runs with Steve Smith for the third wicket. The Australian captain got to his customary three-figures (149, 135 balls) against India and anchored his team to a 1-0 lead in the five-match ODI series.
Things might have been different if Bailey was given out, but umpiring errors are part of the game. At the end of the day, it was India’s decision not to use the DRS. Smith and Bailey lit up the show with a gorgeous batting display which came on the heels of Rohit Sharma’s glorious 171 not out off 163 balls. But Dhoni perhaps missed a trick and allowed the partnership to flow.
The Fremantle Doctor makes its presence felt at the WACA as evening approaches. India just had to break the third wicket stand to run into the bit-part allrounders. Inexplicably, Umesh Yadav was given only three overs in his first spell. Spinners, Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin, started to bowl in tandem from the 18th over onwards. The sequence continued till the 26th over, helping the visitors regain control of the proceedings. Seventy-two runs were conceded in those nine overs. It was the turning point of the game.
On a good pitch, Ashwin struggled to get into the groove. He improved in his final spell, taking two wickets. But by then the hosts had all but won the contest. Jadeja, too, lacked penetration. Their bowling was meat and drink to the Aussie centurions.
Picking Bhuvneshwar Kumar ahead of Ishant Sharma was a little curious as well. The former landed in Australia just two days ago as injured Mohammed Shami’s replacement. The captain, however, thought the medium pacer would be a better option than Ishant. Kumar bowled a restrictive line and returned with an economy rate of 4.66. But he never looked like taking wickets.
India can count on a couple of positives from the series opener. During their 207-run partnership for the second wicket, Rohit and Virat Kohli showed they were ready to take the fight to Australia on bouncy pitches. Sran, being thrown in at the deep end, performed commendably. But the end result was another defeat. Dhoni and his men now have to play out of their skin to wrest the initiative.
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