Australia's Brad Hogg appeals unsuccessfully for Irfan Pathan's LBW during the ICC T20 World Cup cricket match, Super Eight group between India and Australia at R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. HT/Ajay Aggarwal
'Get Shane Watson and David Warner, get Australia; get Virat Kohli, get India,' declared a former Sri Lankan player as he arrived for the World Twenty20 games at the R Premadasa Stadium on Friday.
It reflected his cricket acumen but was also a dig at the over-dependence of the teams on these batsmen. Kohli's last few international innings, across formats, were 40, 50, 75 not out, 8, 70, 51 not out, 103, 58, 68, 23 and 128, coming into the opening Super Eights game against Australia.
As luck would have had it, Kohli suffered a rare failure and the team's batting collapsed. On the other hand, Watson and Warner made mincemeat of India's total with a 133-run partnership off 81 balls. When India took their only wicket, Australia needed just eight more off 39 balls. Watson hit 72 off 42 balls with seven sixes and Warner was unbeaten on 63 off 41 balls.
Kohli's dismissal was an example of the weakness batsmen in the midst of a purple patch show. His pull shot off Pat Cummins bordered on over- confidence. Cummins was bowling at great pace and the stroke always had an element of danger to it.
On his batting and bowling ability, George Bailey will count among the most ordinary of cricketers to captain Australia. But his astute leadership was to the fore as he outshone MS Dhoni, his Chennai Super Kings skipper.
Bailey particularly impressed with the way he rotated his fast bowlers. Cummins was made to bowl his four overs in one-over spells. He bowled the third over, where he ran out Gautam Gambhir with smart footwork on the follow-through. His second over was after a three-over break. Returning all fired up, he unleashed a series of well-targeted short-pitched balls to remove Kohli.
Despite the big success, he was brought back only in the 16th over, another fiery one, picking up the wicket of Dhoni. His fourth and final over was the 19th of the innings, where he conceded just five.
It was a contrast to how Dhoni handled his bowlers. Zaheer Khan, for once, was going at full tilt and was made to bowl three overs on the trot. It was a clear case of one over too many. Trying one over with R Ashwin at the start of the innings was okay, but asking him to bowl three with the new ball defied logic.
The main strike bowler should have been bowling when he would be at his most effective and that would have been with a slightly older ball.
With no turn, the Australian openers were at ease against the lanky spinner, and by the sixth over, India had exhausted the two spearheads in its arsenal.
India misread the conditions and the opponent's strengths, and based their strategy on the result of the game against England, who are known for their weakness against spin.
By taking Sehwag out of the equation, they did a psychological favour to Australia.
And Harbhajan and Piyush Chawla found out their spin doesn't hold any terror for the Aussies. The 10 sixes were a lesson Dhoni won't forget that easily.