There was pin-drop silence at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday evening after Hardik Pandya was hurried into a hook off a Marcus Stoinis bouncer and ended up offering an easy catch to Cameron Green at deep backward square leg.
As a dejected Pandya - India’s stand-in captain for the first ODI against Australia - walked back to the pavilion, India was reeling at 83 for 5, in pursuit of Australia’s 188.
On a surface that aided the seamers, Mitchell Starc and Stoinis struck early and India’s fate was hanging in balance with the target still more than 100 runs away.
However, K.L. Rahul (75 n.o., 91b, 7x4, 1x6) and Ravindra Jadeja (45 n.o., 69b, 5x4) took things in their stride and forged an unbeaten 108-run partnership for the sixth wicket to guide India to a five-wicket win.
Despite the pressure mounting, the duo took time to settle in and eventually accelerated to ensure that there were no further slip-ups. Making the most of a reprieve - dropped by Aussie captain Steve Smith at 41 - Rahul played to his strength and was in no mood to rush things.
Rahul and Jadeja put the Australian bowlers’ patience to test. They collected singles and hit occasional boundaries. This approach helped as the touring side ran out of steam and allowed India to go one-nil up in the three-match series.
Coming into the game after getting dropped from the Indian team for the last two Tests against Australia in Indore and Ahmedabad, Rahul stamped his class in the shorter format as he handled the pressure and did not allow the Aussies to dig in after enjoying initial success.
With three top-order batters - Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav - back in the pavilion inside the first ten overs, with just 39 runs on the board, it was a challenge for Rahul to step in and deliver. Shortly after he walked in, Shubman Gill - after surviving two dropped catches and a LBW review - was caught at backward point by Marnus Labuschagne off Starc.
Things would have gone haywire had Rahul and Pandya not rebuilt with a 44-run partnership. While the former held fort, the stand-in captain played briskly, crafting his innings with three fours and a six before falling to Stoinis.
India was still far away from home and it needed Rahul and Jadeja to take things forward. Rahul hit a flurry of boundaries soon after reaching his half-century, while Jadeja backed him by rotating the strike.
Bowlers’ day out
As the temperature soared in the afternoon, India’s decision to bowl first paid dividends as Mohammed Siraj (3 for 29) struck in the second over of the game, dismissing Travis Head.
Head, who narrowly missed out on a century in the final Test in Ahmedabad earlier this week, stepped down and attempted to drive away from his body, but ended up getting an inside edge onto the stumps.
But Mitchell Marsh hit back with three boundaries off Siraj. He built a 72-run partnership with Smith for the second wicket.
In his first international assignment since November last year, Marsh made the most of the Powerplay and hit boundaries at regular intervals, before slamming Shardul Thakur for a huge six over his head to take the team to 59 for 1 in ten overs. Though Pandya broke the momentum, tempting Smith to chase a wide delivery and edge one behind, Marsh did not lose focus.
He brought up his 50 off 51 deliveries, hitting consecutive fours off Kuldeep Yadav, and bettered it with 31 runs off his next 13 deliveries. However, Jadeja removed him with flighted delivery. Marsh mistimed it and ended up offering a catch at short third man.
And, that breakthrough proved crucial for India.
Moments later, Jadeja took a stunner to show get rid of Labuschagne, before Mohammed Shami (3 for 17) returned for his second spell to break the opponent’s back. Playing in place of Alex Carey, Josh Inglis chopped one onto his stumps off Shami before Cameron Green was cleaned up.
Reeling at 174 for 6, Australia still hoped for a comeback with Stoinis still at the crease. But he was caught at slip by Gill, before Jadeja sent Glenn Maxwell packing. The visiting team lost its last four wickets for just 14 runs.
- Deodhar Trophy LIVE Score, Round 1: Central 128/4 (35 overs) Rinku rebuilds vs East; West gets six wickets; streaming updates
- Adrian Mannarino wins at Newport, ends great week for American Alex Michelsen
- NBA’s Kyle Anderson gains China citizenship ahead of FIBA World Cup
- Faf du Plessis is a Super King again!
- Akshay Bhatia earns big win at Barracuda in playoff