Mitchell Starc put on a clinical display of new-ball bowling to register his ninth five-wicket haul in ODIs and send India spiralling to 117 all out, their lowest total at home against Australia, in the second game of the series in Visakhapatnam on Sunday.
The visitors then rode on belligerent fifties from openers Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh to romp home in 11 overs, reaching 121/0 by scoring 100 runs in fours and sixes. The match lasted only 37 overs – shorter than a full T20 tie — as India were outclassed in every department.
Australia’s brilliant comeback after losing the first ODI in Mumbai nicely sets up the last game in Chennai on Wednesday. Australia will be expected to ride this momentum as they hunt a rare white-ball series win in the subcontinent.
“It is disappointing, no doubt about that,” India captain Rohit Sharma said at the presentation ceremony. “We didn’t play to potential. We didn’t apply ourselves with the bat. We always knew that was not enough runs. It was not a 117 pitch at all. By no means. We just didn’t apply ourselves.”
Electing to bowl, Australia exploited overcast conditions at the start to quickly put India’s batters on the backfoot. For the second match in a row, Starc was sensational with the new ball, accounting for four of the top five batters before Sean Abbott and Nathan Ellis ran through the middle and lower order. India’s innings ended in just 26 overs.
With the ball seaming around, Starc was unerring with his length, teasing the right-handed India top-order with his high-armed deliveries that dipped enough to create confusion in the batters’ minds and shift the balance. Then there were the leaving deliveries asking to be hit, but only setting up batters for catch practice at the slip cordon. Like Shubman Gill was, after lashing out at a full ball from Starc away from his body, only to slice it to point.
Sharma looked unhurried as long as he was playing off his hips. But when tempted with a wide ball from Starc, he chased it like Gill, finding first slip in the process. “He’s (Starc) been doing it for years for Australia with the new ball,” said Sharma. “He kept bowling to his strength and we kept falling to his strength. That’s something we need to understand and play accordingly. All their bowlers bowled really well and put us under pressure.”
Starc said: “I feel like my rhythm has been good for a few weeks now and I guess the last couple of nights I’ve got the ball to shape in the air and do a little bit off the wicket.” Against Suryakumar Yadav and KL Rahul he exploited the well-known Shaheen Afridi angle – pitching the ball up to get the batter on the front foot, only to shape the ball in and trap them plumb in front of the stumps. Yadav got a golden duck while Rahul hung around for a bit before being pinned on his knee roll.
When stand-in skipper Steve Smith dived to his right at slip to complete a breathtaking one-handed catch to dismiss Hardik Pandya, India were down and out at 49/5. Only Virat Kohli could have anchored a turnaround but he was trapped leg before by Ellis. Ravindra Jadeja was pouched by wicketkeeper Alex Carey before Axar Patel took India past 100 while running out of partners. Two sixes off Starc was all Patel could salvage before last man Mohammed Siraj was bowled by Starc.
Getting early wickets was key to defending 117 on a surface that had become easy to bat on. India though were stonewalled by a counterattacking stand between Marsh and Head. They needed just one over to settle into chase mode. Siraj and Mohammed Shami conceded 11 runs in the second and third overs. Any semblance of a fightback went up in thin air once Shami conceded 16 runs in the fifth over and then Siraj was carted for four boundaries in the sixth.
Five bowlers were put to use but barring Patel everyone got hammered as Australia cantered to their third quickest ODI win. “It was a bit of fun,” said Marsh. “Always nice to get a good start when you’re chasing a small total like that. I was hoping Head would get off to a flier and I could play it slow.” Instead, Marsh ended up playing a whirlwind 36-ball 66, hitting six sixes and fours each.