Home English Hurricane Hardik and vintage Dhoni delight.
The fearless aggression of youth combined with experience and equanimity as Hardik Pandya and M.S. Dhoni got India out of a mess.
Then, the bowlers were on target when Australia, its chase reduced to a 21-over bash, came out to bat. The host was home and dry by 26 runs in the first ODI at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here on Sunday.
In the afternoon, India rallied from 11 for three to 281 for seven. It was an innings of several shades for the home side; first darkness, then light.
A continual drizzle delayed the Australian response by 122 minutes. When play got underway again, the Aussie target was revised to 164 from 126 balls.
Jasprit Bumrah made short work of debutant Hilton Cartwright with his quick-arm action.
After his batting heroics, Hardik bowled with some pace and venom, snaffling key man Steve Smith on the pull; Bumrah held a sensational catch running with his back to the ball from short fine leg.
And the two wrist spinners, left-armer Kuldeep Yadav and leggie Yuzvendra Chahal delighted. Kuldeep got the ball to turn, skid and straighten, took out the dangerous David Warner on the cut.
Chahal made his deliveries to hiss and spin, mixing his leg-spinners with googlies. He scalped a rampant Glenn Maxwell — the Aussie had bludgeoned Kuldeep for three successive sixes — by sending a leg-spinner deliberately wider.
Dhoni’s fast glovework lifted the spin duo. There were no comebacks for Australia.
Earlier, the chance appeared and disappeared in a hurry for Australia. Hardik, on 13, nicked Nathan Coulter-Nile and skipper Smith reacted late to a sharp offering at slip. India was 110 for five then. Hardik, subsequently, tore into the bowling for a 66-ball 83. The lapse marked a turning point.
Dhoni played an innings of craft and heart. He absorbed the stress, rebuilt the innings around him; Dhoni added 118 in 116 deliveries with Hardik for the sixth wicket and then 72 in 54 balls with a pugnacious Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the seventh.
The former India captain, cutting loose towards the end, launched into left-arm seamer James Faulkner, a cover-driven six on-the-walk being a top shot. Those old memories at Chepauk came gushing back.
Eye of a tiger
The tall, loose-limbed Hardik has the eye of a tiger and has this ability to clear the ground with ease. The all-rounder can inflict plenty of damage with his bat-speed and reach, has freshness and freedom in his approach.
Adam Zampa learnt this the hard way. In an explosive sequence, Hardik smashed the leg-spinner for 4,6,6,6 with a towering straight hit being the pick.
There was movement and bounce for the Aussie pacemen early on after India elected to bat under a cloud-cover. Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile bowled tight, built pressure. The duo combined control with velocity; India seemed powerless in the first PowerPlay.
The tall Coulter-Nile, whose long delivery stride means he doesn’t quite deliver with a high arm, sucked the batsmen into his trap by swinging the odd delivery outside off and testing footwork.
Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli and Manish Pandey perished to Coulter-Nile playing away from the body. Maxwell leapt high at backward point to pluck the ball off Kohli’s blade, one-handed.
Rohit Sharma and a fluent Kedar Jadhav did some damage control before falling to short-pitched deliveries from seamer Marcus Stonis. He pulled his weight as a support seamer but Australia missed a third specialist paceman.