Hardik Pandya’s career-best effort wasn’t good enough to compensate for a forgettable bowling effort as India slumped to a 66-run defeat against Australia in the first ODI, making a rather unimpressive start to the tour, here on Friday.
Virat Kohli’s men started exactly on a note they wouldn’t have liked, giving away 374 runs in 50 overs with rival captain Aaron Finch (114 off 124 balls) and his illustrious predecessor Steve Smith (105 off 66 balls) hitting contrasting hundreds.
A pitch that looked docile during the first half suddenly came to life in the second as Josh Hazlewood (3/55) bounced out the Indian top-order, including Kohli and a frightened Shreyas Iyer, who got himself into a tangle.
Pandya’s 76-ball 90 and a 128-run stand with senior opener Shikhar Dhawan (74 off 86 balls) delayed the inevitable but it was always a catch-up game after the team was reduced to 101 for 4 inside 14 overs.
Big-hearted leg-spinner Adam Zampa (4/54 in 10 overs) dismissed Dhawan and Pandya in quick succession as India surrendered to scoreboard pressure finishing at 308/8 after 50 overs.
Pandya, who hit seven fours and four sixes, carried his blazing IPL batting form into the first game of the series but it was his fast-medium bowling that Kohli missed on the day as he lacked options when Smith sent his regular bowlers on a leather-hunt.
India badly missed a sixth bowling option with none of their specialist batters good enough to roll their arms for even two to three overs.
It was a day when the bowling unit barring Mohammed Shami (3/59 in 10 overs) flopped badly and poor fielding only added to their woes.
As many as three sitters were dropped and numerous sloppy efforts on the field added to the misery.
The normally steady Yuzvendra Chahal (1/89 in 10 overs) earned the ignominy of worst figures by an Indian spinner and Jasprit Bumrah’s wretched ODI form (1/73 in 10 overs) continued.
India’s fastest bowler Navdeep Saini (1/83 in 10 overs) also struggled like any newcomer does, unable to hit the right length on Australian tracks.
Ravindra Jadeja (0/63 in 10 overs) wasn’t as costly as Chahal but since the past two and half months, his bowling has lacked sting.
India’s eternal nemesis Smith seems ready to torment them a lot in next two months if his 11 fours and four sixes were any indication on Friday.
Not for once was he troubled by the Indian bowlers, who were already under the pump after a 156-run opening stand between Finch and David Warner (69).
A lot of credit should go to Warner and Finch for the manner in which they attacked Chahal.
While Finch used his feet to smother the spin and play against the turn, Warner stayed back in the crease to hit Chahal with the turn, disturbing his line and length completely.
It helped as Smith and Maxwell (45 off 19 balls) had no problems in flaying the bowlers during the last 10 overs.
While chasing, Mitchell Starc’s wayward first over that cost 20 runs did give India the much required impetus at the onset but Hazlewood’s splendid short bowling saw the end of Mayank Agarwal (22 off 18 balls), Kohli (21 in 21 balls) leaving the visitors out of sorts in a jiffy.
Vice-captain KL Rahul (12) couldn’t keep down an innocuous full-toss from Zampa and India were in deep trouble even before 15 overs had ended.
A high percentage of dot balls (148) in the Indian innings also showed how only one team dominated the proceedings.