India kicked off their ICC Cricket World Cup campaign at home with a solid six-wicket win over Australia. The victory was secured thanks to stellar performances by Virat Kohli and KL Rahul, who steered India through a somewhat nervy run chase.
Heading into the match, the hosts likely anticipated a relatively straightforward chase on a Sunday. This confidence stemmed from their spin-heavy bowling attack, which managed to dismiss the five-time champions for a modest total of 199, with just three deliveries remaining in the Australian innings.
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India’s reply got off to a shocking start as three of their top four batters registered ducks, a first-time occurrence in an ODI, all within the first two overs.
However, a crucial moment came when Virat Kohli was dropped by Mitchell Marsh at 12 runs, courtesy of Josh Hazlewood. Kohli then went on to play a pivotal role, scoring 85 runs, as he orchestrated another successful chase for India.
KL Rahul, Kohli’s partner in the middle, remained steady with an unbeaten 97 runs, ensuring India reached the target of 199 in 41.2 overs. Their formidable 165-run partnership for the fourth wicket proved to be the turning point.
Australia, after winning the toss, had a promising start, reaching 74-1 in the 17th over. However, their batting performance left much to be desired as no one managed to cross the 50-run mark in this low-scoring contest. Despite decent starts from David Warner (41) and Steve Smith (46), Australia would be disappointed with their inability to capitalize on those beginnings.
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Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav combined to take five crucial wickets, causing havoc in the Australian innings. With the pitch favoring spin, Jadeja concluded his spell with impressive figures of 3-28 in 10 overs, while Yadav contributed with 2-42, effectively neutralizing Australia’s early advantage of batting first.
The Australian trouble began early when Mitchell Marsh (0) edged a delivery from Jasprit Bumrah in the third over. Virat Kohli showcased his fielding skills by executing a diving catch at slip to dismiss Marsh.
David Warner and Steve Smith played a crucial role in stabilizing the Australian innings by forming a solid 69-run partnership for the second wicket. Warner showcased his batting prowess, accumulating 41 runs, featuring six boundaries. However, just as he appeared set for a big innings, he offered a return catch to Kuldeep Yadav.
India’s spin strategy had a significant impact, particularly when Ravichandran Ashwin (1-34) was introduced in the eighth over, causing the scoring rate to slow down.
Steve Smith continued to contribute, adding another 36 runs alongside Marnus Labuschagne. However, his innings came to an abrupt end in the 28th over when a delivery from Ravindra Jadeja dismantled his off-stump. Smith, taken aback by the delivery, had managed to strike five fours during his 71-ball stay at the crease.
Smith’s dismissal triggered a collapse for Australia. In a span of just two overs, Jadeja had Labuschagne caught behind and then trapped Alex Carey (0). From a promising 110-2, Australia suddenly slumped to 119-5.
Glenn Maxwell (15) and Cameron Green (8) tried to steady the ship, adding 21 runs off 37 balls for the sixth wicket. However, the Indian spinners struck again, with Yadav dismissing Maxwell in the 36th over, and Ashwin taking Green’s wicket three balls later. Australia found themselves in dire straits at 140-7.
Despite the precarious situation, the Australian tailenders managed to contribute, adding crucial runs. The last three wickets added 59 runs, with Mitchell Starc scoring 28 off 35 balls, including two boundaries and a six. Captain Pat Cummins chipped in with 15 runs off 24 balls, while Adam Zampa faced 20 balls.
However, the Indian pacers ultimately completed the job, restricting Australia to a total well below par for the conditions.
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India’s pursuit of a 200-run victory target got off to a nightmarish beginning. In the very first over, Ishan Kishan attempted a wide delivery and ended up caught at slip off Mitchell Starc’s delivery, earning him a golden duck. This wicket marked Starc’s 50th wicket in ODI World Cups.
Just five balls later, Rohit Sharma found himself out LBW to Josh Hazlewood (3-38). Despite Sharma’s review, the decision ultimately favored Australia, and the Indian skipper departed the field without scoring a single run, a six-ball duck.
The troubles continued for India as Shreyas Iyer joined the list of ducks among the top four Indian batters, driving the ball straight to cover just three balls later. This left the scorecard in a staggering state, showing only two runs for the loss of three wickets.
Australia had a golden opportunity to tighten their grip on the game, possibly sealing India’s fate, but Mitchell Marsh dropped a catch when Virat Kohli was on 12 in the eighth over. Kohli pulled a shot off Hazlewood, and though Marsh covered a significant distance in pursuit of the catch, he couldn’t hold on. This proved to be a costly miss as Kohli and KL Rahul gradually reconstructed the innings, guiding India to a successful start in the World Cup campaign.
Kohli eventually departed, caught at midwicket by Marnus Labuschagne off Hazlewood’s bowling, but KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya (11 not out) successfully saw India through to the target, ensuring a victorious start to their World Cup journey.
India’s captain, Rohit Sharma, expressed his admiration for Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, and the Indian bowlers after their impressive performance in the tournament opener. He remarked, “To begin the tournament the way we did was truly satisfying. Our bowlers made excellent use of the conditions.”
Sharma acknowledged the challenging start to their innings while chasing a substantial target but credited the Australian bowlers, saying, “You don’t want to commence your innings like that when chasing such a target, but hats off to the Aussies. They bowled exceptionally well. Hats off to Virat and KL for their resilience in the middle, creating a match-winning partnership for us.”
On the other side, Australia’s captain, Pat Cummins, lamented the crucial drop of Virat Kohli early in the chase, saying, “It’s far from ideal, especially when it’s someone of his caliber. Having them four down would have been the perfect start, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Cummins recognized that it’s just the first game out of nine in the tournament and highlighted the areas where Australia needs improvement, stating, “It’s only one game out of nine, but there are areas we need to enhance.”