Friday, January 29, 2016, 7.30pm AEDT, Melbourne Cricket Ground, watch on Nine Network
THIS week’s coliseum will be the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where two cricket gladiators, Steve Smith and Rohit Sharma, will renew hostilities.
Expect some fury out of these two.
In the first Twenty20 match on Australia Day, the Indians ($2.35 at Crownbet.com.au) crashed the Aussie party, taking first blood by 38 runs at the Adelaide Oval.
India put the Aussie bowlers to the sword, clubbing 3/188, thanks to a brilliant unbeaten 90 off 55 balls from flamboyant star Virat Kohli. He hammered nine fours and two sixes in a brilliant innings that won’t soon be forgotten.
The fireworks began early with Rohit Sharma making early inroads with 31 off 20 balls, the Indians 0/40 from the first four overs.
When he and fellow opener Dhawan fell, Kohli found a willing partner in crime in Suresh Raina, who clobbered 41 from 34 balls playing the support role to the gun bat.
That pair came together in the fifth over at 2/41 and put on 134 between them, before Raina was dismissed in the last over chasing quick runs.
Speaking of quick runs, Raina’s dismissal brought Indian talisman MS Dhoni to the crease.
With just three balls to face, he clubbed 11 runs, including a six and a four to inflate the Indians’ score.
His three balls produced a strike rate of 366.67. That’s good going in any one’s language.
Man of the match Kohli has a supreme record at the ground and said after the match he wished he could “take this stadium with me every where i go in the world.”
“I really like playing here, it has huge Indian support as well and the whole atmosphere of the ground just sits (well) with me,” Kohli said.
“Everything came together nicely and it was good to get that win under the belt.”
The Aussie bowlers copped an absolute pounding, giant pace man Shaun Tait getting absolutely smoked all over the park in his return from cricket’s international wilderness, smacked for 45 runs in four overs, without taking a wicket.
The best Aussie bowler was Shane Watson, who finished with 2/24, removing both Sharma and Dhawan in the space of five balls to put the green and gold back in the game.
In reply, Australia knew it had to get off to a flyer and captain Aaron Finch and David Warner delivered.
188 is a big total to chase and you need a lot to go right to break it down – and it was looking good early.
The latter was the first to fall, with 17 off nine balls including two boundaries and a six, putting on 47 in five overs with Finch to have the Aussies on target.
Finch and Smith then combined for a 42-run partnership that looked like it would put the Aussies in a god position.
But when they were both removed with the score at 89, things began to look dicey.
Smith went first, for 21 off 14 balls, striking it at 150, with three boundaries, and then Finch fell a couple of balls later for what would be the side’s tip score, 44 off 33 balls, with four fours and two sixes that came at a strike rate of 133.33.
That’s really where the wheels fell off as the Aussies surrendered easy wickets as they hunted for big maximums, due to the run rate required exceeding 12 runs per over – the last five wickets fell for 41 runs as the Australians were dismissed for 151, 38 runs short of the Indian total.
Captain Finch said the Aussies let themselves down in the field, allowing the Indians to reach an insurmountable total.
“At the end of the day we had eight genuine batsmen, with James Faulkner batting at eight there,” Finch said.
“We backed ourselves to chase, but it just wasn’t to be.
“I thought we executed well with the ball, but we let ourselves down in the field.
“I thought around 170 would have been a nice score to keep them to and back ourselves to chase it.
“When we got our chance, I went a bit slow there, I just couldn’t get going, so I probably cost us a bit of momentum there, unfortunately.
“We’ll get back to Melbourne and work harder again.”
The Indians, so often criticised for possessing a bowling attack that doesn’t quite match it with their much vaunted batting line up, would be pleased with their spread of performances with the rock.
Four bowlers with at least two wickets were led by the stiff armed seamer Jasprit Bumrah, who nabbed 3/23 off 3.3 overs.
Ravichandran Ashwin (2/28), Ravindra Jadeja (2/21) and Hardik Pandya (2/37) were the other multiple wicket takers in an even performance that made captain Dhoni proud.
“I think it was a good game, I think we batted very well and we got those extra runs (at the end),” Dhoni said.
“Also the bowling, I think, was really good.
“You look at the Aussie batting line up, more often than not, the only way you can win against them is by taking the wickets.
“I feel our bowling was was superb, you want to win as a team.”
India thoroughly deserved the victory and to go one-nil up in the series.
Australian top run scorer
With all due respect to Usman Khawaja – who can’t even get a gig in the T20s after a monstrous summer – David Warner and Aaron Finch, Steve Smith is the best batsmen in the Aussie line up
He crashed 315 runs off 293 balls in the five match series at the impressive strike rate of 107.5. They came at an average of 63, and his knocks included a majestic and match winning 149. Smith is relatively green when it comes to the T20 arena, having played just 17 international innings for 258 runs at the sub par average of 19.85. He’s only ever made one 50 and that could be due to the fact most of his innings have come down the order. He will bat at three behind the two aforementioned openers and that will give him a huge chance to first build, then launch into a big innings. We just have to hope the Indian bowlers can actually get rid of one of the Aussie openers so that Smith actually gets a chance. He did get a chance against the Indians in match one and he started like a house on fire, but gave it away when the Aussies needed him most. He rarely misses out on a score and we reckon his 21 off 14 balls is a show of some good form that just lacked a little application. He won’t fail two games in a row, so you can expect him to compile a decent total that will give him a big chance of topping the run scoring charts for the Australians in Melbourne.
Indian top runs scorer tips
If you think Smith is going well, take a look at this bloke. He is Australia’s nemesis and is almost automatically the man to bet whenever you’re going for top run scorer tips. Sharma smashed an incredible 441 runs in the five march series, with a best performance of an unbeaten 171, carrying his bat through the innings. He hit two centuries and one 50, at the remarkable average of 110.25. Cop that, Australia. His performances did not exactly translate into wins for the Indians, but it was through no fault of his own. His runs came at better than a run a ball and, with a T20 average of more than 33, he is in the elite bats in the shortest form of the game. Has seven career T20 50s, but just the one ton and he will be keen to build on that against a side that is fast becoming his whipping boy – if they are not already. There are also no such worries of Sharma getting a crack at the Aussie bowlers, with the superstar opening the batting and having a full 20 over platform to build his innings on. He has played nine matches against the Australians, with a highest score of an unbeaten 79, but he has produced just the one 50. But that doesn’t count for a lot when you’re in the type of form this bloke is in. In match one of this T20 series, Sharma clubbed 31 runs off 20 balls to get the Indians off to a rip snorting start as they set a big target for the Aussies. The strike rate of 155 included four fours and a big six.
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