Mohali: Mohammed Shami’s crafty bowling performance was beautifully complemented by the grace and poise of Shubman Gill as India defeated Australia by five wickets in the opening ODI of the three-match series here on Friday.
Shami displayed his artistry with impressive figures of 5 for 51, reminding all and sundry of his skills while helping India restrict Australia to 276 after asking the visitors to make first use of the strip.
In reply, Gill once again stamped his authority with a 63-ball 74 and added 142 for the opening stand with the Asian Games-bound Ruturaj Gaikwad (71 off 77 balls) to set the foundation for victory, which, on paper, might have looked a bit more stretched than it actually was.
Victory was achieved in 48.4 overs as Suryakumar Yadav (50 off 49 balls) and skipper KL Rahul (58 not out off 63 balls) also played their part with only Shreyas Iyer (3) and Ishan Kishan (18) missing out on a batting party.
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Surya would especially be happy with his effort as he came in when India still needed 92 runs to win. It could have been a bit tricky but along with his skipper, the Mumbai batter showed calmness and also earned confidence with a much-needed half-century.
Gill, who hit his ninth half-century in ODIs, was undoubtedly the batting star of the day. He had six fours and two sixes in his knock but the short-arm pick-up pull off Marcus Stoinis left everyone stunned.
Off-spinner spinner Matthew Short was at the receiving end when he was lofted over long-off for the other six.
Gaikwad, who would have to switch on to the T20 mode in another two weeks’ time, had 10 boundaries to his credit. He hit cover drives and square drives and was especially severe on Sean Abbott.
For Australia, the only bright spot was leg-spinner Adam Zampa finding some bowling form with figures of 2/57 off 10 overs.
But the game-changer on the day was Shami, who doesn’t seem to feature in India’s first XI plans for the World Cup. He literally made a statement with his second five-wicket haul in ODIs.
His performance also put tremendous pressure on the weakest link among pacers Shardul Thakur (0/78 in 10 overs), who has been selected in the 15, primarily due to his batting skills.
Shami was literally unplayable in his opening spell, and then came back to remove a set Steve Smith (41 off 60 balls) in a short second stint, to disturb the visiting team’s momentum.
Stockily built wicketkeeper Jos Inglis (45 off 45 balls) and Marcus Stoinis (29 off 21 balls) added 62 runs for the sixth wicket to take Australia past the 250-run mark but it was certainly below par as Shami got Stoinis in the nick of time to put the brakes on their scoring.
Warner (52 off 53 balls), Smith and Marnus Labuschagne (39 off 49 balls) all got starts but the lack of conversion did hurt the Aussies on a day when the Indian bowling unit was supremely effective without being exceptional.
All eyes were trained on Ravichandran Ashwin (1/47 in 10 overs) and he did find his rhythm in the second spell after looking rusty during the first spell. He went for 36 in his first six overs from the ‘Harbhajan Singh End’ but Rahul changed his end during the second spell and it read 4-0-11-1.
The Australian team also suffered due to freak dismissals, first when Labuschagne missed an Ashwin delivery while trying to play a reverse sweep and the ball ricocheted off Rahul’s pads with the batter out of his ground.
Then it was Cameron Green (31 off 52 balls), who was slowly but steadily setting it up with Inglis before a miscommunication led to his run-out.
But no praise will be enough for Shami, probably the most versatile seam and swing bowler of his generation, who has magic in those fingers and wrists.
In his very first over, Shami bowled one that moved in the air and just deviated away after pitching. It was full and pitched at a length where Mitchell Marsh had to press forward and the thickish outside edge was a regulation catch for Shubman Gill.
But the turning point was Shami’s second spell, where he bowled a sharp in-cutter that jagged back enough and Smith, who was late in reacting, inside edged onto the stumps.
In his third spell, he bowled one stumps and Stoinis’ heave across the line saw his stumps uprooted. It was difficult for India to lose after Shami’s efforts.