That India were favourites going into the three-match Twenty20 Series in Brisbane was no understatement. They had after all won 13 of their last 15 T20Is before the one played out at the Gabba while Australia were coming off four consecutive losses in the 20-over format.
Therefore, the result in the opening encounter where the hosts overcame a mighty Indian outfit by 4 runs (DLS method) came as a bit of a surprise as Australia showed just why they aren’t walkovers in their own backyard.
The two teams now head to the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) for the second T20I where the Indians will be eager to prove a point while Australia will be keen on continuing their good run and seal the series on Friday.
Everything that had been going wrong for the Australians came together in the opening game. Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis fired with the bat while leg-spinner Adam Zampa who has been in and out of the side of late returned with excellent bowling figures of 2/22 in four overs which included the crucial wickets of Virat Kohli and KL Rahul.
Sent into bat, Lynn (37 in 20), Maxwell (46 in 24) and Stoinis (33 in 19) all powered the hosts to 158/4 in 17 overs on a pacy Gabba deck. The revised target of 174 in 17 overs proved too much for India despite a scintillating 42-ball 76 by Shikhar Dhawan.
The bowling unit then had Jason Behrendorff picking up the early wicket of Rohit Sharma while Billy Stanlake troubled the Indian batsmen with the extra bounce. Stoinis' nerveless last over when he had just 12 runs to defend will augur well for the hosts as well.
"We have got good memories in the team. We dominated T20s last year. We were in good form not so long ago. Obviously, things have not gone our way but we know we are still a good side," said Stoinis after the game.
Andrew Tye's returns of 3-0-47-1 are a cause of headache for captain Aaron Finch, but he will hoping the seamer finds his rhythm back in the second outing.
What will probably have the hosts chuffed is Lynn getting back among the runs. The 28-year-old has been a prolific run-getter in franchise cricket all over the globe but hasn't yet been able to showcase his full potential in the international circuit. Now, having started off the T20 series well, Australia will hope for some more 'Lynnsanity' come Friday.
For India, on the other hand, an early wake-up call might not be such a bad thing. There were a few glaring lapses on the field which included two dropped catches and a fairly straightforward run out chance. The bowling too lacked the fire which has been associated with the Indians. Dhawan, after the game admitted that missed chances in the field cost the side dearly.
"Of course, missed chances in the field had their own impacts,” he said. “The dropped catch and missed run out opportunity but that is part and parcel of the game and we took it in our stride. We conceded a few extra runs in the middle overs.”
The difference between the two sides in the opening T20I was the number of sixes each side hit. While Australia had 9 maximums to their name, India had just the 4 of them.
There were way too many loose balls by the visitors on the day which were dealt with rather easily. Krunal Pandya (4-0-55-0) and Khaleel Ahmed (3-0-42-1) were both taken to the cleaners by the Aussie batsmen even as the other three bowlers Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Kuldeep Yadav were miserly. Not having a sixth bowler in such circumstances hurt India badly.
The visitors might have also missed a trick by not including Yuzvendra Chahal considering the kind of returns Kuldeep and Zampa had. With the MCG surface likely to take turn there is a chance India might consider fielding both Kuldeep and Chahal for the key encounter.
The batting barring Dhawan and Dinesh Karthik (30 in 13) too looked off-colour with Rohit, Rahul and Kohli, for once, failing to fire. While India is unlikely to make any changes in the batting unit, having had a feel of the environment Kohli-led India will want to give a better account of themselves at the MCG.
India have happy memories of the ground having defeated Australia in a T20I the last time they were in the country in 2015-16. The conditions are expected to be batting-friendly and a high scoring in affair is in the offing. A strong-70,000 crowd is expected at the MCG on Friday which will make the atmosphere even more lively.
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, D'Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa
India: Virat Kohli(c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar, Krunal Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, K Khaleel Ahmed