Pandya’s all-round heroics down Australia

Hardik Pandya, who has one century and one five-for in professional cricket, continued to make mockery of conventional selection principles as he single-handedly won India the first ODI of the series. On a pitch with more bounce than an average Indian ODI surface, Pandya’s sensational six-hitting combined with MS Dhoni‘s pragmatism to lift India from 87 for 5 to 281, but persistent drizzle converted the 282-run target into a theoretically-easier 164 in 21 overs. Pandya then introduced the world to his knuckle ball to send back Steven Smith and Travis Head.

Smith had a rare shocker of a match, dropping two catches at slip, including Pandya, who went on to score 83 off 67 balls, and made Adam Zampa his fourth victim of three successive sixes in three months in international cricket. When Smith came out to bat, he looked to blast everything out of the ground, displaying uncharacteristic panic before failing to pick the knuckle ball and falling to an excellent catch by Jasprit Bumrah at short fine leg.

The two wrist spinners, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, then did their bit in the middle overs to shut the chase out. Kuldeep followed a ripping leg break with a cross-seam delivery to account for David Warner, making it 35 for 4 in eight overs. Glenn Maxwell then hit four sixes in 18 balls to raise Australia’s hopes, but this time Yuzvendra Chahal outsmarted him with a wide leg break that he could only mistime to long-on. That, at 76 for 5 in 12 overs, was game over for all practical purposes.

It was Maxwell in the first half of the match that started Australia’s ascendancy with a sensational catch to send back Virat Kohli, who had chosen to bat first expecting the pitch to slow down considerably in the chase. This came just after reserve opener Ajinkya Rahane had fallen to extra bounce on a drive

Summarized scores: India 281 for 7 in 50 overs (Pandya 83, Dhoni 79, Coulter-Nile 3-44) beat Australia 137 for 9 in 21 overs (Maxwell 39, Chahal 3-30, Pandya 2-28) by 26 runs (DLS method)

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