Australia’s horror tour of India continues

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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    Rain briefly threatened to bring Australia into the match but in the end they were soundly beaten in the first Twenty20in India yesterday, continuing their nightmare tour.

    Inclement weather ended Australia’s innings at 8-118 from 18.4 overs and resulted in India being set the elementary task of chasing down 48 from six overs.

    Quality first overs by WA quicks Jason Behrendorff and Nathan Coulter-Nile gave Australia slight hope before Indian stars Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan cantered to a nine-wicket win.

    It may have been the smallest of sample sizes, but Behrendorff looked impressive on debut, earning sharp lift, late swing and nudging 140kmh as he twice beat the bat of Dhawan. There was little else to make Australian fans smile.

    Australia’s innings followed a pattern which became disappointingly familiar across their recent five-match ODI series in India, which they lost 4-1.

    A strong started was frittered away in a blur of middle-order ineptitude. On a pitch which offered variable pace and bounce, it seemed as though a score of about 160 would leave Australia well placed. They were on track for such a solid total at 2-76 from 9.4 overs before their middle order subsided with worrying ease.

    With Moises Henriques, Dan Christian and Tim Paine at five, six and seven, you could have forgiven the Indian bowlers for feeling confident they could run through Australia. That is as weak a middle order as I have ever seen Australia field in an international fixture.

    Henriques is a fine domestic cricketer but has failed again and again on the international stage. In his 20 limited overs matches for Australia, Henriques has averaged a paltry 12 with the blade, despite being picked as a batting all-rounder.

    Christian, meanwhile, is well past his best at 34 years of age and has scored a grand total of 18 runs from his 15 Twenty20matches for Australia. And while Paine is a decent opener in the Big Bash League, he has always looked most comfortable in white ball cricket when he has time to build an innings.

    Steve Smith of Australia looks to the sky

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    Paine quite clearly is ill-suited to coming in down at number seven, a position which typically requires a batsman to be able to strike boundaries from ball one. He, Christian and Paine looked all at sea against not only India’s spinners but their quicks too.

    The fact Christian was comprehensively beaten for pace by one gentle 133kmh ball from Bhuvneshwar Kumar is all the proof required to confirm he is now far from international standard.

    Of the team Australia fielded yesterday, only four players would make their best XI – David Warner, Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell and Adam Zampa. Even then, Maxwell is a borderline selection. The cavalier all-rounder has been very scratchy across his four limited overs matches in India, with 75 runs at 19. Those raw numbers actually flatter Maxwell, who has looked badly out of touch.

    Particularly in T20Is, where they badly need his ballistic power in the middle-to-late overs, Australia are a much better side when Maxwell is in good nick. Yesterday their batting looked very poor, both on paper and in reality.

    It continued what has been an awful tour of India for Australia, who competed so gallantly in the four-Test series there earlier this year. While there are still two T20Is left for Australia to salvage something out of the tour, it is hard to see their rag-tag line-up beating India’s elite outfit.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco