MUMBAI: What created the biggest buzz at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday was a group of students remonstrating against the Citizenship Amendment Act despite authorities hoping to avoid trouble by banning fans from wearing black in protest.
There was little to cheer on the cricket field for the India supporters. Save a brief period of flourish, when Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul joined forces for a 121-run second-wicket partnership, it was Australia all the way.
Having put India into bat, Australia’s pacers, especially Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc were right on point as they dismissed the home team for 255 in 49.1 overs. Whatever illusions India had of making a match of it on a flat track, disappeared quickly as Australian openers Aaron Finch and David Warner got stuck into the challenge. Both notched up unbeaten tons as the visitors romped to 258 in 37.4 overs for a resounding 10-wicket win over India in the first of the three ODIs in the series.
“Totally outplayed in all departments,” was India captain Virat Kohli’s assessment of the game. “It’s a very strong Australian team, and if you don’t play well enough, they will hurt you. In phases, we were too respectful against their bowlers, and didn’t take the game by the scruff of the neck. It’s another challenge to bounce back from here.”
With India and Australia both coming into the series on the back of some fine performances at home, it was expected to be a close contest. India tweaked their top order, sending in Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, who is still on a comeback trail.
The early signs were worrying. The Australian pacers were getting enough help on the wicket with the new ball. With Dhawan taking his time to settle in, Rohit hurried into a drive off Starc that landed in the hands of Warner.
The left-handed Dhawan took 22 balls to get to three runs, but broke the drought by scoring two boundaries off Starc. In the company of Rahul, Dhawan seemed to have found his touchback and the two shrugged off Rohit’s early exit during a solid second-wicket partnership.
But India lost the two in successive overs, Dhawan to Cummins for 74 in the 28th over and Rahul to Ashton Agar for 47. Kohli coming in at No 4 was meant to provide some steel to the middle-order but they came down like a house of cards. While Starc led the way with three wickets for 56 runs, Cummins finished with two for 44 and Kane Richardson with two for 43.
With the bat, Australia were fluent and almost flawless. Warner got his first reprieve when on five and 90, but he has been almost sublime since returning to international cricket after a ban. He punched a ball past backward point to bring up his 18th ODI century and celebrated with customary leap in the air. Captain Finch went for a less punishing but just as effective sweep for four, to bring up his ton.
India will need to press the reset button before they take on Australia in Rajkot on Friday in the second ODI.