ITDC INDIA EPRESS/ ITDC NEWS India managed to keep a determined batting display by Australia under check as they defended a total of 352 to register a 36-run win in their group stage match at the Oval on Sunday. Fast bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3-50) and Jasprit Bumrah (3-61) held the bowling honours for India as Australia's chase lost momentum in the last 10 overs.
Indian captain Virat Kohli admitted that the 3-2 series loss at home in March to an Australia side lacking strike bowler Mitchell Starc had really rankled his team and was in their minds at the Oval.
All of Australia's top three batting pairs posted partnerships in excess of 60 runs, but the highest partnership was the 72-run stand between Steven Smith (69) and David Warner (56). While Smith played his usual enterprising game, scoring his runs off 70 balls, Warner struggled for touch, taking 84 balls for his knock.
Both Usman Khawaja (42) and Glen Maxwell (28 off 14 balls) were dismissed as they were beginning to put India under pressure. Wicket-keeper batsman Alex Carey struck an enterprising 55 not out off just 35 balls, but he ran out of partners as Australia were dismissed for 316 in the 50th over.
Speaking to mediapersons after the match, Kohli said the Indian team had learnt its lessons well from their series loss in March and didn’t want to give any chance for Australia to get any advantage.
Kohli said, “We were more motivated to win today because of the fact that we lost the series in India, being 2-0 up, and there was no Mitchell Starc, either. So him coming in makes their bowling line-up even stronger.”
“We had to be at the top of our game, as I said, and couldn't have asked for a better game in all three departments... We set the tone the way we wanted to with the bat upfront, getting a very good opening partnership. I got runs, Hardik [Pandya] played outstandingly well, M.S. [Dhoni] played his role perfectly, K.L. [Rahul] struck the ball so beautifully. So from that point of view, I think we played a really good one-day game today, something that any team would want to do. And yes, (with) the results in the past, we had to make sure that against this side, we win all the moments, the crucial moments,” Kohli noted.
India’s record against Australia in World Cups has also not been the greatest in the past. This Australian team was on a roll, having won 10 ODI games in a row until their game against India at the Oval. India, with this win, also ended Australia’s successful chasing streak in World Cups. Australia have never lost a match chasing in the competition since 1999.
This was India’s second win in the 2019 World Cup, with both victories against South Africa and Australia being extremely well-crafted, professional wins. The execution of plans by the players was perfect in both matches.
Despite these wins, and India being labelled co-favourites to win the World Cup alongside hosts England and Australia, Kohli refused to commit that a semifinal spot was a surety. “In my opinion, it's too early to decide that. I think after about six games, we'll be in a better position to know where we stand in the tournament, where we stand in the table, but we couldn't have asked for a better start against two strong sides,” he observed.
Kohli said India, which started its campaign later than all teams in the World Cup, had an advantage of playing the strongest teams in the first phase.“The good thing is we're playing all strong sides upfront. If we do well in the first phase, we'll be in a better position to reach the semifinal. For us, it's actually a good thing that we're playing the stronger sides in world cricket if you look at the rankings before the first phase gets over,” he argued.
Winning the toss on a flat Oval wicket was helpful for India as the batting fired, putting up a challenging target of 352 for Australia to chase against an incisive bowling attack. The plan to keep the dangerous Australian openers—David Warner and Captain Aaron Finch—on a leash helped heap pressure on the Australians. It was the perfect platform for the Indian spinners to further dry up the scoring rate in the middle overs. “We sort of felt like they (Finch and Warner) were a bit hesitant in going for the boundary option, so the communication was very simple: Bowl at good lengths but within the stumps and pitch it up,” Kohli revealed.
“So we sensed that, the bowlers sensed that, and then we just thought that the higher we take the run rate, we will get a few chances to take wickets, and then the game will go beyond them slowly. I think the communication was important from bowlers, as well, so it was both ways. It wasn't just me speaking to them. We both had a discussion and then we executed the plan,” said Kohli.
Kohli applauded the striking power of the middle order batsmen—from Hardik Pandya, M.S. Dhoni, K.L. Rahul and Kedar Jadhav—which he believed gave India the fire power comparable to any top team.
“KL Rahul didn't even play five, six balls in this innings and he can strike the ball as you saw he can. Kedar didn't play a ball, and you're talking about Hardik, M.S. Dhoni, Kedar, K.L—serious hitting ability and serious talent with the bat. We're very well equipped, and as we said, if one of the top three gets a hundred, and today all three of us got runs, and then these guys become even more dangerous because they already have a platform where they can just come in and literally play like a T20 game,” Kohli declared.