On Sunday evening, India had just lost their second wicket in the form of Rohit Sharma, caught by stand-in wicketkeeper Phil Hughes off Shane Watson with the hosts precariously placed at 66 in pursuit of a huge 305. In strode ODI veteran Suresh Raina, the batsman skipper MS Dhoni hopes will be primed for the number four position by the time the 2015 World Cup comes around.
No sooner had the left-hander taken guard than Watson dug in a short ball at about 139kmph. Raina hurried into the stroke and almost ended up handing the fielder at short mid-on a catch. He survived and went on to eventually score 39. But his awkwardness in dealing with Watson’s snorter narrated the plan the Aussies have put in place to tackle the flamboyance of the Indian middle order in the seven-match series.
Raina was not the only one, who looked shaky in the face of bouncers. Yuvraj Singh, who is on a comeback mission too was undone by Mitchell Johnson with a well directed short-pitched delivery. Having smelt blood early into the slugfest, it goes without saying that George Bailey’s men will try and improve upon this strategy in the coming days.
However, Dhoni brushed aside suggestions that India looked weak against balls directed at the ribs, saying: “There are no weaknesses against the short ball. We did well in the Champions Trophy and in the series against the West Indies. Let’s not go there again.” But his slightly aggressive stance, when faced with this question, made one believe that this is one area the Indians would be definitely concerned about as the series progresses.
Dhoni insisted the visitors won by virtue of implementing their plans better than their opponents and there was nothing more to it. But what his counterpart Bailey’s views could set the stage up for spicier contests. The Australian skipper said Johnson was assigned a specific role — to intimidate the Indians with pace — and the left-arm speedster did a fantastic job.
“We wanted Mitch to go out and bowl fast, intimidate batsmen and take wickets. I think he did that. He’s going to be important for us to have him firing, the energy he brings in. He led us from the front which is good,” Bailey said after the 72-run win at the Maharashtra cricket Association Stadium in Pune on Sunday.
Another paceman, James Faulkner was the most successful bowler on the night, taking 3-47 in eight overs, while the third Aussie pacer Clint McKay finished his quota on 2-36. Speaking about the duo, Bailey said: “Clint probably is not going to intimidate batsmen as much, but he’s pretty accurate, swings the ball, so length is going to be pretty important to him. James is a little bit different, does a bit of both. He finds ways to keep himself in the game and also takes wickets.”
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