Shami and Starc provide fast-bowling thrills on juicy Wankhede track
There is an expectation that the ODI World Cup in India later this year will be dominated by flat pitches that offer the bowlers very little. That may be the case, but the opening match between Australia and India suggested it wouldn’t have to be the case – or at the very least there can be variety on offer.
Australia’s tour has thrown up a wide range of the Indian surfaces, albeit across two different formats. The tough but not unplayable pitches in Nagpur and Delhi, the real bunsen in Indore, a pretty lifeless one in Ahmedabad and now a one-day surface in Mumbai that offered quick bowlers encouragement, both in terms of decent pace, good carry and some seam movement to go alongside swing.
It did not quite look that way when Mitchell Marsh was bludgeoning his way to 81 off 65 balls, but his departure sparked a collapse of 8 for 59. A deep batting order didn’t help on this occasion. Then the early stages of India’s chase suggested that slide perhaps wasn’t quite as self-inflicted as it first appeared as they slid to 39 for 4. That meant 12 wickets had fallen for 98.
“To an extent I think we may have got carried away with watching Mitch bat and how well he struck them then thinking the score might need to be higher than what was necessary,” Marcus Stoinis said. “There was a bit in the wicket, we need to be a bit better with our techniques and figure how we are going to play that. We were expecting it to swing around a bit but do a bit less off the actual pitch. But we are good enough to adapt to that.”
Shami’s second spell of 3-2-8-3 was a classy display of his craft. Josh Inglis had survived a review for caught behind only to inside edge onto his stumps the next delivery. Then Shami really got to work.
At the start of his next over he beat Cameron Green with consecutive deliveries then with the third produced a beauty which straightened just enough to beat the outside edge and take off stump. Shami should have had another next ball when Stoinis pushed with hard hands and offered a chance to slip which Shubman Gill shelled.
However, the frustration for both did not linger long. In Shami’s next over, Stoinis repeated his effort and Gill swallowed the chance (Gill would then take an even better one to remove Sean Abbott off Mohammed Siraj).
Remarkably, Australia did not score off the last 24 balls sent down by Shami and Siraj during which the pair of quicks shared five wickets. Adam Zampa was beaten by four consecutive deliveries from Siraj before finally nicking behind.
“The matches [at Wankhede] are mostly high-scoring,” Shami said. “There is good bounce, the ball comes nicely onto the bat. The momentum shift depends on the lengths you bowl and how early or late you adjust and find the lengths. The momentum we got after the 20 overs, where we found our lengths, helped us restrict them to 188. But, yes, we didn’t expect to keep them to such a low score.”
But if there is movement on offer with the white ball, Starc will more than likely also find it. Stoinis was the somewhat surprising option to share the early duties, although he later said he knew a couple of days ago he would do it. On commentary, former captain Aaron Finch noted how he swung the ball more than Sean Abbott. His sixth ball, Stoinis swung one into Ishan Kishan’s pads and trapped him lbw.
Then it was the Starc show. Two balls into his second over he saw a chance spurned when Gill edged a fantastic delivery which swung in then nipped away off the pitch, only for Inglis to palm it down as he dived in front of first slip.
His third over was one for his collection of classics. He drew an inside edge from Virat Kohli, then beat him with the swing to bring a stifled lbw appeal. The next ball was 145kph and ghosted past the edge. Then the reward: a full inswinger which thundered low into Kohli’s pad and was so out that he turned on his heels to walk off as the finger was raised.
Starc was not finished there. Suryakumar Yadav, who is having a harder time to crack ODIs, was beaten by a good-length ball that shaped back and was hitting the top of middle.
The hat-trick delivery at the beginning of Starc’s next over was too full, delightfully driven away by KL Rahul, but Starc responded again. Given a sixth over by Steven Smith he lured Gill, who had lived a charmed life, into a drive which he could not keep down through point. Starc was withdrawn after a spell of 6-0-24-3.
At that stage, Australia felt like favourites but India’s middle order righted the ship. Stoinis slipped in an excellent bouncer to remove Hardik Pandya, but Starc couldn’t conjure another breakthrough. Abbott was unlucky to end wicketless while Green struggled a little for consistency. Another frontline quick bowler might have been handy.
Ultimately, a game whose opening stages had been dominated by the runs from Marsh, was closed out by an unbroken century stand from Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja, the margin comfortable in the end for India. Yet between those times there was nothing comfortable about having bat in hand.