MOHALI: What criticism? In the pre-match presser on Monday, KL Rahul had downplayed questions on his tempered down approach and strike-rate in T20 cricket, saying “it is something I’m working on.”
On Tuesday, the right-hander made a breezy 35-ball 55, mixing aggression with caution as he dealt with the early dismissals of Rohit Sharma (11) and Virat Kohli (2). However, towards the end, it was allrounder Hardik Pandya (71 not out off 30 balls), who breathed fire with a hat-trick of sixes in the final over to power India to an imposing 208/6.
SCORECARD | AS IT HAPPENED
But three dropped catches and poor death bowling meant the hosts finished on the losing side as Australia reached the formidable target with four balls and four wickets to spare. Complacency against an Australian outfit can be costly. Cameron Green, playing only his second T20I, proved that by setting the platform for the chase with a flamboyant 30-ball 61, containing eight hits to the fence and four over it.
Promoted to open the innings, the allrounder started off with four consecutive boundaries off Umesh Yadav, playing his first T20I in three years. He raced to a half century before Axar Patel (3/17) and Umesh (2/27) pulled India back into the contest with three wickets in 14 balls.
Green and Smith launching a stellar counter-attack to take the tourists to 109 for one by the 10th over. Two dropped catches made matters worse for the Indians. However, Axar quickly got into the act by removing Green.
Umesh, who was drafted in as a last-minute replacement for Mohammed Shami, got over the nightmarish start and responded to the faith shown by Rohit by packing back the dangerous Steve Smith (35) and Glenn Maxwell (1) in a span of four balls. It was left to stumper Matthew Wade (45 not out off 21) to put the finishing touch to the chase. He did it with utter ease as Australia took a 1-0 lead in the three-match rubber.
Earlier, Rahul found the perfect companion in Suryakumar Yadav (46 off 25 balls), who lit up the PCA Stadium with fireworks, and infused life back into the capacity crowd that went into a standstill when Kohli took the long walk back after being caught at midwicket after a scratchy start.
Asked to bat first, Rohit and Rahul started well, bringing up 25 runs in quick time, before the skipper wasted another start and was undone by his habit of trying to go aerial almost every delivery. Rohit’s attempt of clearing the deep square-leg boundary off a fullish delivery from Josh Hazlewood came to nought as a running Nathan Ellis latched on to a low catch.
Kohli, who walked in to a rapturous roar from the crowd, failed to get going, especially against leg-spinner Adam Zampa and departed after a seven-ball stay.
Unperturbed by the tricky situation, Yadav was in no mood to allow the Aussies dominate and started the onslaught by hitting Pat Cummins for a six and a four, even as Rahul went ballistic against the likes of Cameron Green and Glenn Maxwell to take the side to 86 for 2 at the end of the 10th over.
Rahul, however, departed immediately after getting to his fifty with a single off Zampa. Back for a second spell, Hazlewood broke the 68-run third-wicket stand with the scalp of Rahul, who was caught by Ellis at deep square-leg.
However, there was no stopping Yadav, who launched Zam-pa for consecutive sixes before Hardik Pandya announced his arrival with a massive six off Green. With the Indian duo looking destructive, Green managed to pull Australia back with the wicket of the dangerous Yadav.