Tour review

India v Australia, 2018-19

Chetan Narula

Twenty20 internationals (2): India 0, Australia 2
One-day internationals (5): India 2, Australia 3

With an unexpected twist, Australia's first one-day series win since January 2017 had its roots in the ball-tampering saga of 2018: forced to trial different players because of the bans for David Warner and Steve Smith, they stunned India on their home turf. For India, whose players would soon embark on the IPL, it was a final one-day outing before their World Cup fixture against South Africa at Southampton on June 5; perhaps they felt victory did not matter as much as trying out fringe players.

After establishing a 2-1 lead in the 50-over series with an unchanged - if slightly unfamiliar - side, India kept experimenting. Bhuvneshwar Kumar had missed the first three matches, and M. S. Dhoni would miss the last two. Left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav played all five, but leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal appeared only once; Kuldeep was usually paired with slow left-armer Ravindra Jadeja instead. In hindsight, it was misguided, leading to India's first defeat in a home one-day series for more than three years, and only their second anywhere since losing the 2017 Champions Trophy final.

Australia experimented too, but their selections had more to do with necessity while Smith and Warner completed their 12-month bans for ball-tampering. A few weeks earlier, they had lost a one-day series at home to India 2-1, despite putting up a tough fight, but the foundation for their victory here was laid during a 2-0 win in the Twenty20 internationals, in which Glenn Maxwell scored 169 runs at a strike-rate of 172; India never fully recovered.

Another factor in India's defeat was a lack of runs from the top order. Since the Champions Trophy, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli had scored 56% of their one-day runs, but Dhawan and Sharma shared only one opening partnership above 15 - a stand of 193 in a losing cause at Mohali. That left Kohli desperately short of support, though he shone as usual, notching up 310 in five games, including two more hundreds, to move within eight of Sachin Tendulkar's ODI record of 49 (and from 235 fewer innings).

But Usman Khawaja outdid even Kohli, scoring 383 at 76, including two hundreds and two fifties. Australia built on this to complete their first one-day series win on Indian soil for nearly ten years. Peter Handscomb and Ashton Turner helped them chase a mammoth 359 at Mohali, and captain Aaron Finch managed 93 in the win at Ranchi after a poor summer at home.

Among the bowlers, Pat Cummins and Adam Zampa stood out. Cummins was as tireless as he had been in the home Tests against India and Sri Lanka; despite conditions unfavourable to pace, he was effective with the old ball and the new, picking up 14 wickets at 15. Including the T20 games, Zampa dismissed Kohli three times with his leg-spin, and picked up 11 wickets in the ODI series, out-bowling Kuldeep, Jadeja and Nathan Lyon.

The result ended a dreadful run for Australia, which had produced only four 50-over wins in 24 completed matches. But questions remained for India, leaving Kohli to state that the contest had come down to "desire".

© John Wisden & Co