Australia have been dominated in their third Cricket World Cup match, falling to India by 36 runs at The Oval in London.
There is a mountain to work on for Australia coming out of their first loss for the campaign, which came on the back of a strong Indian batting performance, and a strange one of their own.
Winning the toss, there was almost no question Virat Kohli selected right by bowling first. On an already-used pitch which was expected to slow down during the second half of the day, India won the first of many battles throughout the day.
However, it was the first 20 overs for India which set the tone, as their game plan came off with absolute perfection.
While Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are both known for their big hitting, they were controlled and patient against Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, seeing them off with the new ball, before they went on the attack against other bowlers.
At the end of the first powerplay, India were 0 for 41 and tracking along nicely, with Sharma then the first man out to the bowling of Nathan Coulter-Nile, who bounced back well after a horror start.
Still, Virat Kohli picked up where Sharma had left off, taking India from 1 for 127 in the 22nd over to 2 for 220 in the 36th when Dhawan was finally dismissed, having made an exceptional century.
Australia’s bowling, from there, really struggled to contain India, as they made 132 from the final 14 overs, including 116 from the final ten as Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni exploded.
Pandya would finish with 48 from 27 balls, clearing the rope three times, while MS Dhoni belted 27 from 14 balls. Virat Kohli was the anchor to the end, finishing with 82.
Australia’s bowling at the clutch of the innings was poor, and it’s clear that outside of Starc and Cummins, there is very little in the attack, with India’s game plan working to perfection. Even Starc was expensive though, ending up going for 74 from his ten overs.
Set 353 to win, Australia’s tactics in reply were baffling. They were going under three runs per over towards the end of the opening powerplay, and while Aaron Finch did have one big over to somewhat get them back on track, they were always behind the eight ball.
Just as quickly as Finch started to get going, he was run out, with Steve Smith then attempting to put some intent into the run chase, while usual big hitter David Warner simply plodded on from the other end.
Some credit has to go for the Indian bowlers and fielders, especially KL Rahul, for their excellent consistency in saving runs, but Warner showed no intent as he brought up his slowest ever ODI half-century, before eventually departing for 56 from 84 balls, leaving his team in a massive hole at 2 for 133 in the 25th.
While they weren’t all that far behind India comparatively and had seen off some overs from Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, their required run rate mounted.
The next strange decision was bringing in Usman Khawaja at four, who simply wasn’t suited for the role. He did his best, but ended up with 42 from 39, as the required run rate crept over ten.
Glenn Maxwell (28 off 14) gave Australia some late hope, but when he followed Smith and Stoinis back to the pavilion, it was all over.
Some late hitting from Alex Carey, who made the quickest half-century of the tournament so far, would be leaving Aussie fans wondering what might have been if for a quicker start, given they only finished 36 runs short, but it simply wasn’t to be, and Australia will have to go back to the drawing board ahead of their next clash with Pakistan.
India: 5/352 (50) (Shikhar Dhawan 117, Virat Kohli 82, Rohit Sharma 57, Marcus Stoinis 2/62) defeat Australia: 10/316 (50) (Steve Smith 69, David Warner 56, Alex Carey 55 not out, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3/50, Jasprit Bumrah 3/61, Yuzendra Chahal 2/62) by 36 runs.
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