The 2023 World Cup hosts and favorites are already in action. However, there was much more danger on the field in Chennai than India’s six-wicket victory against Australia seemed to have indicated on paper.
Australia was held to 199 runs thanks to Ravindra Jadeja’s outstanding 3 for 28, but the chase for a modest goal got off to a historically poor start. For the first time in ODI history, India’s top four batsmen were all out for no runs. Josh Hazlewood’s double-wicket maiden claimed skipper Rohit Sharma by lbw and Shreyas Iyer by a soft catch at short cover, dropping India to 2 for 3.
Virat Kohli and KL Rahul, two of India’s “been there, done that” world-beaters, emerged from the ruins though. A stand of 165 converted a difficult start into a straightforward finish. Rahul was able to get himself into a position for an outside shot at ODI century number seven while Kohli succumbed for 85 after being dropped on 12.
A four and a six would have put him over the three-figure mark with 91 already in his possession and five more to get. Unfortunately, a lofted drive from Pat Cummins that made too sweet of a connection to clear the boundary pad at extra cover ended the game and left the keeper-batter in dismay at 97 not out.
The six wickets that India’s spin buddies divided among themselves represented an unbreakable chokehold that was exemplified by the 16.5 overs’ worth of dot balls in their combined 30. Jadeja, who was introduced in the 20th over, was chiefly responsible for the control exercised throughout the bulk of Australia’s innings. Prior to the Chennai Super Kings stalwart’s eight-over-straight performance of 3 for 38 in comfortable circumstances demolishing those foundations, Australia had made a decent start.
David Warner was as relaxed as usual, surpassing 1000 ODI World Cup runs in just his 19th innings, setting a new record for the feat having done so in one knock fewer than Sachin Tendulkar and AB de Villiers. This was despite losing opener Mitchell Marsh for a six-ball duck – edge found by Jasprit Bumrah, well-taken by Kohli tumbling to his left at first slip.
A return catch terminated Kuldeep’s stay at 41 and a 69-run stand with Steven Smith, who himself got it to 46 before losing his off stump after being beaten on the outside edge. Kuldeep was eventually dismissed twice. In the course of ten Jadeja deliveries, three wickets would eventually be lost.
The last-minute runs were bravely chased down by Starc and Cummins; the latter struck the first six of the innings halfway through the 40th over (Kuldeep heaved over deep square leg), and the former smashed the second from Bumrah over the same area.
After Hazlewood’s double-hit in his first over, India’s assignment appeared to be everything but academic. However, when Kohli and Rahul joined forces, there were only 197 runs to be scored in 48 overs, thus no unnecessary risks were required.
However, India should have been 19 for 4 when Marsh, rushing in from square leg, failed to catch a top edge from Kohli on 12 that was hurried by a skiddy bouncer from Hazlewood due to some misunderstanding with Carey behind the stumps. Then, on 13, Kohli survived a Cummins edge past his own stumps.
With just his second boundary in 50 deliveries, Kohli quickly got back to work, dominating through midwicket for back-to-back fours from Green. The two routinely traded blows until Rahul started his innings with three fours, including two fine-of-third and a drive across cover, to take 13 off Adam Zampa’s first over.
Rahul might have finished off a professional opener victory with a century. Large red ink and winning by 52 deliveries should more than makeup for it in terms of consolation.