It’s been a good few days for international cricket. For the first time a player took a hat-trick and scored a century in the same Test, that particular match between two of the lesser nations ebbed and flowed and elsewhere Hashim Amla scored a splendid century whilst his teammates shat themselves at the sight of Mohammad Irfan.
Sadly, British cricket fans saw none of this, being treated instead to the first ODI between India and Australia, from the admittedly resplendent cricket ground at Pune. As ways to spend an autumnal Sunday go, watching this was hardly a walk through the local park hand-in-hand with Rachel Riley, kicking leaves at her in a flirty manner, before heading to the local pub for a full three-meat carvery, pints of Old Speckled Hen and a shared banoffee pie, followed by cwtching on the sofa whilst listening to Alchemy: Dire Straits Live by candlelight. But it was marginally preferable to reading the Sunday papers, mowing the lawn and washing the car.
Obviously Australia are maligned by the likes of Uncle Tom Tobley and all non-Australians, but it is to their credit that they were on top throughout this game. Phil Hughes and Aaron Finch put on 110 for the first wicket, George Bailey batted superbly once again, scoring 85 (he is fast becoming our second-favourite Australian cricketer) and the tail gave it a fair old whack in the final overs. Despite the batsman doing their best to be dismissed in any conceivable fashion to Yuvraj Singh, their total of 304/8 from 50 overs looked menacing. For India, Ishant Sharma was pathetic; he should’ve been replaced long ago and we can only assume the BCCI have some kind of hair-per-player quota that they need to fulfill every game. If only Ravi Jadeja hadn’t cut his locks.
Although India’s batting line-up is capable of hunting down large targets, they were always behind in their chase. Three of the top four made starts, but no-one batted through – largely due to good bowling from the Australian quicks. England fans will be delighted to see Mitchell Johnson and James Faulkner bagging wickets in this series, shortening as it does the odds on them playing in the Ashes (which, as you may be aware, are back soon). Nonetheless, the highlights of the innings were related: in celebrating a wicket Faulkner giving Brad Haddin’s eye a high-one, followed a few overs later by stand-in ‘keeper Hughes taking a rather good catch to dismiss Yuvraj. As a consequence, Matthew Wade probably experienced more emotions in this one innings than he scored runs last summer.
India need to find a bowler to replace Ishant – another spinner would make sense, notwithstanding the relative success of Yuvraj and Jadeja – but otherwise should be unchanged. Batting-wise, they’ll expect more from the top five, most of whom seemed to struggle against the shorter ball on Sunday, and all of whom underperformed.
Australia are obviously on their way to another series victory and are clear favourites to win every thing they enter between now and the 2015 World Cup. Assuming Brad Haddin can actually see, we don’t think any changes are needed, mostly because their starting XI are by far the best on offer in their squad. Expect a closer game, some more amusing injuries and with a bit of luck we won’t need to dim the lights and crank up Mark Knopfler’s guitar solos.