Cameron Green (61, 30b, 8x4, 4x6) pumped boundaries like a hitting machine and Matthew Wade (45 n.o., 21b, 6x4, 2x6) held his nerve towards the business end as Australia pipped India by four wickets in a run fest at the PCA stadium.
Green’s superb hitting perhaps made the difference between the two sides and consigned the home team to a defeat that appeared unlikely after K. L. Rahul (55, 35b, 4x4, 3x6), Suryakumar Yadav (46, 25b, 2x4, 4x6) and Hardik Pandya (71 n.o., 30b, 7x4, 5x6) lifted India to 208 for 6 in 20 overs.
Captain Aaron Finch signalled his team’s intent by lofting Bhuvneshwar Kumar for six on the first delivery of the run chase. Finch and Green then hit seven fours between them in the next two overs as Australia galloped to 38 for 0 in three overs.
Left-arm spinner Axar Patel was introduced early to take the pace off the ball – both full and short-of-a-length deliveries of the fast bowlers were being hit away with ease – and it yielded the wicket of Finch, but it made no difference to the tempo.
Yuzvendra Chahal was brought in, too, to slow it down, but Green took a liking to him, smashing a four in the fifth over and two sixes and a four – all off slog sweeps – in the seventh. And he rode his luck too; a mishit off Hardik resulted in an opportunity for a wicket, but Axar, diving forward, dropped the catch at deep midwicket.
Green was finally out going for another big hit, skying the ball as he tried to slog-sweep Axar for six. Umesh Yadav, who was playing his first T20I in more than three years, then got rid of Steve Smith (35, 24b, 3x4, 1x6) and Glenn Maxwell for 1. Both were caught behind.
Josh Inglis and Tim David collected a few quick runs, but it was left to Wade to take Australia home. 40 runs were needed with three overs to go, but Wade was up to it, Harshal Patel’s fourth over going for 22 runs. It didn’t matter whether Harshal bowled full or short or length, they were being hit for sixes. And with three fours in a row in the 19 th, Wade got Australia on the doorstep.
David was out in the final over, holing out to Hardik at long-off against the run of play to end a partnership with Wade of 62 (30b). Pat Cummins duly hit the winning runs by driving Chahal square of the wicket. It was the 25th four of the innings – nine more than India’s tally of fours.
The Rahul and Surya show
Earlier, Indian batters reduced Josh Hazlewood, Cummins, and Green to a pulp. Rahul and Suryakumar built the foundation with an entertaining partnership of 68 (42b) before Hardik provided the finishing touches with a 30-ball 71 (unbeaten).
After a lacklustre Asia Cup, Rahul was back to his menacing ways. He scored a strokeful half-century and built the foundation for a good total along with Suryakumar. The two matched each other stroke for stroke to thrill the capacity crowd and lift their team’s run-rate after a par Powerplay score of 46 for 2.
The two wickets in those early overs were a result of careless strokes off benign deliveries. Rohit Sharma had taken the bait offered by Hazlewood, falling to an attempted flick, while Virat Kohli, after taking two singles off six deliveries, smashed Nathan Ellis (3 for 30) straight to mid-on.
Suryakumar was in his element from the get go, settling in with a picturesque drive through extra cover and a stylish pull for six. He then decided to play second fiddle to Rahul until the 12th over, and understandably, as Rahul appeared hungry to prove a point.
Rahul enjoyed the ball coming on to the bat and made the most of it. The flick shot for six off Green in the eighth over was perhaps the most stunning shot of the innings. He followed that up with a drive to extra cover off a slower delivery. And when the Australians decided to bring Maxwell on to take the pace off the ball, it made no difference to Rahul, who slog-swept him imperiously for six.
It took just 21 minutes for Rahul and Suryakumar to bring up the 50 partnership. Soon Rahul brought up his half-century as well, off 32 deliveries.
So comfortable were they that it appeared as if nothing would destabilise them. Again, errors were unforced and wickets fell against the run of play. Suryakumar flicked Hazlewood for a six and slog-swept leg-spinner Adam Zampa for back-to-back sixes, but before long the partnership ended as Rahul was caught at fine-leg for 55.
Suryakumar fell two overs later, caught behind off Green.
Hardik, though, started nonchalantly lofting, drilling and swatting deliveries everywhere to steer the team to a 200-plus total. He used the depth of the crease well. He smashed them down the ground or to deep midwicket when deliveries were full, and cut and pulled when they were short of a length. There were some delightful deft touches, too.
India’s innings ended on a high as Hardik hit three sixes in a row off the last three deliveries of the 20th over as Green’s economy rate deteriorated to 15.33 per over.
While both sets of fast bowlers went for plenty, Australia was tighter than India in the field.
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