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Adelaide: The supposed batting riches which forced Usman Khawaja's exclusion from Australia's Twenty20 squad were not evident on Australia Day, with India claiming a commanding 37-run victory in the series-opener.
India thrash Australia in opening T20
India defeat Australia by 37 runs in the opening Twenty20 International match in Adelaide.
An 134-run partnership between Virat Kohli (90 not out off 55 deliveries) and Suresh Raina (41 off 34) led India to 3-188, in front of 44,745 at Adelaide Oval.
Only Shane Watson (2-24) was immune from punishment, with seamers Shaun Tait, Kane Richardson and James Faulkner hit for 1-128 between them
Australia was punished for only one of their top seven, captain Aaron Finch, reaching 25 - and even his 44 from 33 was not without fault given how many dot balls he allowed.
Spin was pivotal to India bowling Australia out for 151 in the final over. Spinners Ravindra Jadeja (2-21) led the way and R. Ashwin (2-28) recovered from conceding 17 runs in the second over of Australia's chase.
Australia named only three specialist bowlers in order to accommodate debutant Travis Head and fellow Big Bash League thrasher Chris Lynn. After deciding to chase they were going to need all of that batting depth - and then some, it turned out.
India were flying at 0-40 after four overs when Watson was introduced. After removing both openers, Rohit Sharma (31 off 20) and Shikhar Dhawan (5 off 8) in his first over and the being economical in his next two he had the impressive figures of 2-13 from three overs.
If his position as at least a depth player for the World Twenty20, if not in the first-choice XI was in doubt this performance with the ball certainly lessened that doubt.
As good as Watson's start was, Tait's was at the other end of the scale. His sliding-doors moment came in his first over, when he immediately exceeded 145km/h. Had Richardson been steady on the boundary rope at fine-leg, rather than hurriedly backpedalling after walking in too far, Tait's international return after five years would have featured at least one wicket.
The 32-year-old instead finished with 0-46 from his four overs - effectively five overs, given his six wides - and conceded seven boundaries.
Tait was not as wayward as his figures suggested. The bigger problem was that even when he was on line India's batsmen did not seem to be bothered by his pace, which was the rationale behind his recall. The one time it did, when notoriously pace-shy Raina faced his first delivery, the bouncer was fended just wide of the strategically placed fielder at leg gully.
Raina's other nervous moment came on 14 when he pulled away extremely late to a Faulkner delivery, for no explicable reason. He was bowled, but the Australians declined to appeal.
After Watson's two strikes in the powerplay it was not until the final over the Australia had someone to bowl to other than Kohli and Raina. Even that was not a big boost, as Raina's replacement M.S. Dhoni hit Faulkner for six and four from his first two deliveries.
Beyond Watson, Australia's most economical bowler was leg-spinner Cameron Boyce, who conceded 22 runs from his three overs.
Australia made 56 from their powerplay, two more than India had and for the loss of only David Warner (17 off 9). Warner had looked in better touch than Finch, who scored from only 11 of his 22 deliveries in those first six overs, but struggled for strike.
While Finch was comfortably exceeded a run a ball, thanks to his boundaries, he was seemingly soaking up too many dots. He missed the opportunity to make up for that with acceleration by being one of three victims between the ninth and 11th overs.
Jadeja started the mini collapse by removing Steve Smith (21 off 14) and debutant Head (2 off 5) in successive overs.
India captain Dhoni was also vindicated for his decision to recall Ashwin after his expensive start. In his next two overs mid-way through the innings he claimed 2-6, removing Finch (44 off 33) and Watson (12 off 10).
Lynn gave a brief hint of his BBL form, blasting a long six off debutant Hardik Pandya, whose first over featured five wides. Lynn's departure for 17 off 16 gave Pandya something to savour about his debut, and left Australia needing 63 off the last six overs. Even with Faulkner at the crease it was never a legitimate possibility, given India's dominance.