Led by a compelling batting performance and a Mohammad Shami (five for 51) masterclass, India scripted a five-wicket win over Australia in the first ODI at the I.S. Bindra Stadium in Mohali on Friday.
Openers Shubman Gill (74) and Ruturaj Gaikwad (71) compiled contrasting fifties as they laid the platform for a 277-run chase with a 142-run stand for the first wicket.
Skipper KL Rahul (58 not out) then braved a mini-collapse to take his side over the line in 48.4 overs, with Suryakumar Yadav (50) for company. The win also propelled India to the top of the ODI rankings, making it only the second side after South Africa (in 2012) to hold the top spot across all formats.
Lacking a specialist pacer at the other end, Australia captain Pat Cummins failed to maintain pressure in the first PowerPlay as the openers feasted on a diet of fours through the off-side. While Gill raced off the blocks, Ruturaj bided his time in the middle, watching the former blight length deliveries with his gifted timing on a pacy outfield.
The seamers left enough room outside the off-stump as the openers smacked deliveries on the bounce between cover-point and extra-cover for continuous fours. Gill delighted the crowd with an effortless swivel-pull six off Marcus Stoinis. He cantered to his ninth fifty-plus score of the year in just 37 deliveries with another six, dancing down and lofting debutant Matthew Short over long-off.
Gaikwad followed up with a measured, maiden half-century as India whizzed past 100 in just 16 overs. Anything short pinged off the bat through mid-wicket, although the off-drive remained a staple for the right-handed pair.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa eventually prospered, trapping Gaikwad leg-before. Number three Shreyas Iyer (3) missed out again as he was run out for the first time in his career after attempting a non-existent single. Zampa capitalised and castled Gill with a slider that skidded onto the stumps before nearly getting Rahul with a caught-and-bowled opportunity. Despite its depleted resources, Australia probed hard and Ishan Kishan ceded ground with a tame caught-behind dismissal.
But Suryakumar nimbly paired up with Rahul to put the scars of his three successive ducks against the same opposition in March behind him. Shedding his unorthodox strokes for all but two characteristic ramp shots, Suryakumar stuck to straight-drives and added weight to his spot in the World Cup squad, helping India tick another box in the build-up.
Earlier, after being asked to bat in sultry conditions, Australia threatened to tee off on a hard deck before Shami doused its plans early. A gentle outswinger from Shami on a straighter line found Mitchell Marsh’s outside edge to first-slip, a ball after the batter slammed him through point for four in the opening over.
Not a preferred starter in India’s first-choice eleven, Shami was seething in his first spell, where he beat the blade of David Warner consistently and came close to getting his wicket with an inswinger whizzing past the off-stump. Shami and Jasprit Bumrah built ample pressure in their opening spells, but Warner and Steve Smith hung around and targetted Shardul Thakur and R. Ashwin, who donned the ODI blues after 20 months.
Thakur could have had a jittery Warner for 14 in his first over if Iyer had held onto a regulation catch at mid-off. The medium-pacer’s outing worsened as he totalled figures of none for 78 in 10 overs - the worst for an India pacer at home since 2019.
Ashwin’s first spell demonstrated a lack of game time, with his pronounced round-arm action and shorter lengths doing little to trouble the batters. Warner found his bearings quickly with six fours and two sixes, reaching his fifty off 49 deliveries, but fell soon after on 52.
Shami returned with a pivotal second spell to jolt Australia further as he toppled a well-set Smith’s (45) leg-stump with a sharp nip-backer. In an improved second spell (4-0-11-1) where he returned to his conventional off-breaks, Ashwin had Marnus Labuschagne stumped after the latter missed an attempted reverse-sweep and the ball rolled back onto the stumps off the keeper’s pad.
Australia made a comeback at the death with a 62-run partnership between Stoinis and Josh Inglis leading the side towards 250. However, Shami added three late scalps to his tally within six deliveries to record the first five-for by an India seamer at home in 16 years, effectively keeping Australia well below par in the end.
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