On the same ground where they clawed their way back on the tour by winning the final ODI, the Indian cricket team started the T20I series against Australia on a positive note.
A slew of changes in the line-up worked out for India. They comfortably won the game, with some leaked runs in the final over of the Aussie run-chase making the match look very close on paper.
In a rare – and slightly controversial – occurrence, Yuzvendra Chahal replaced Ravindra Jadeja as a concussion substitute despite the latter showing few signs of discomfort from the head injury during his innings.
India profited from having a fifth bowler who was not hamstrung, as Chahal went on to claim the Man of the Match and allowed India to get away with playing just five bowlers.
Though Australia looked on top in phases, their lack of control with the ball at the back end and quick wickets in the middle during their chase derailed their attempts at drawing first blood in the T20I leg of India’s tour. India would be happy to get away despite some woeful fielding lapses.
Here are the player ratings for Team India in the first T20I against Australia.
Rahul carried on from his Orange Cap-winning IPL form to score another effortless fifty. He stood out while the rest of the top order caved in, but threw his wicket away before he could capitalise. He was also the only one who appealed for Henriques to be given LBW, and was vindicated.
Shikhar Dhawan looked vulnerable against quality Aussie pace up front, and unlike his fellow opener, was unable to weather the storm. He became the victim of a much-improved Mitchell Starc, as a ball that swung away late took away his off pole.
Though he struck a boundary to announce his presence, Virat Kohli fell early to an average leg-spin delivery that bounced extra after pitching short. That wasn’t the final bit of mediocrity from the Indian skipper, as he dropped a regulation high chance in the circle.
A slow start of 2 off 7 balls was not corrected, as Manish Pandey edged one to short third-man next ball. The pressure of dots caused Rahul at the other end to hole out in the deep too. Pandey also gave Aaron Finch a life, as he dropped a catch at point which he would have taken on most other occasions.
Riding on the back of a few impressive but scattered knocks in the IPL, Samson came to the party, and looked quite threatening before he threw his wicket away while in the 20s. He took a terrific catch in the deep to dismiss Steve Smith which turned the game, before committing a gaffe in the field by conceding four overthrows.
While he did strike a massive six down the ground, the fireworks from Pandya‘s blade were quite limited. He did bring some much-needed energy to the middle with quick running, though. With no part to play with the ball, Hardik did take great catches to dismiss the Aussie openers, with the one to dismiss Finch in particular being a tough one.
An outstanding late assault from Jadeja put India ahead at the close of their batting innings. Despite struggling with injury and even a blow to the head, Jadeja kept up his hitting form till the end, striking at nearly 200 to give India a respectable total. He played no part in the next innings after being ruled out for concussion.
While Sundar looked out of place with the bat – his only boundary came off a lucky edge that escaped his stumps – his prowess with the ball stood out. His four overs, two within the powerplay, went for just 16 runs in a game where both sides scores at about 8 runs per over. The only downside was the lack of results in the wickets column, although the pressure he exerted allowed his teammates to prosper.
Removed from the attack after just one over in the powerplay which was struck for three boundaries, Chahar came back strongly to end up with an economy of 7.25. He also bagged the wicket of all-rounder Henriques which dented the Aussies’ ability to get the required runs at the death.
By some distance the worst bowler in the Indian attack, Shami inexplicably bowled two overs in the powerplay without looking particularly effective. Regardless of when he returned, he conceded runs. He made a meal of the last over, only to be saved by a massive cushion of 27 runs to defend.
Natarajan carried on from the third ODI to register impressive figures of 3/30 on T20I debut. Scalping Glenn Maxwell for his first wicket in the format, he went on to get the well-set D’Arcy Short before bowling an impeccable penultimate over which claimed Mitchell Starc’s wicket as well.
Coming right off the bench to claim the Man of the Match award, Chahal had a wild upturn in fortunes in a matter of hours. His hard work in picking up the first two wickets allowed India to get back into the contest. Taking Matthew Wade’s wicket off the final ball of his spell, Chahal finished with excellent figures of 3/25 to storm back into form after a woeful ODI series.