India A v Australia A, Tri-series, Chennai August 7, 2015

Burns, Khawaja set up bonus-point win

Australia A 334 for 4 (Burns 154, Khawaja 100) beat India A 215 (Chand 52, Sandhu 4-28) by 119 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja put on a 239-run opening stand © K Sivaraman

At a time when Australia are scouring high and low for batting options, Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja put themselves front and centre with a couple of effortless centuries against India A in Chennai to lead a 119-run rout.

An India A bowling attack which relied on medium pace and non-turning spinners proved incredibly appetising, and the two batsmen were ravenous. Burns pummeled 154, with 14 sixes, while Khawaja batted as if he never had a knee injury; he had struck 85, 166 and 120 on the trot in October 2014 before he spent nine months on crutches. On his return to one-day cricket on Wednesday against South Africa A, Khawaja made 73, and today he smacked 100 off 104 balls. The opening stand fetched 239 in 215 balls. And in tune with the Australian teams of old, this A team put the foot on the opposition's throat early and squeezed the life out of them.

The promise displayed by two young batsmen at a time when Australia have a Michael Clarke-shaped void in the ODI team, and a few vacancies likely to develop in the Test team after the Ashes, is rather timely for Australian cricket. For the 35.5 overs that Burns and Khawaja held dominion over the batting crease, India A looked like a set of net bowlers. Add Aaron Finch's injury-riddled summer since IPL 2015, and one or maybe both of them might find themselves in England playing the ensuing Royal London one-day series.

The coin fell in Australia A's favour - good signs for Khawaja on the day he takes over Queensland Bulls for the 2015-16 season - and then the one-way traffic began. India A contributed to their own flogging, with their three spinners constantly trying to bowl flatter and quicker every time they were targeted. Axar Patel was decent with 1 for 55 off 10 overs, Parvez Rasool was dismal with 57 runs in seven overs and Karn Sharma was abysmal, going for 58 in five overs. Even further indictment was that part-time offspinner Karun Nair had figures of 1 for 40 in eight overs, and was utilised in the final 10 because he was the among the few who actually exerted some control. It did not help that Sanju Samson dropped a couple of catches, and Burns was caught on the square-leg boundary, but Kedar Jadhav trod on the rope.

But there was an important prelude to the carnage. A 9 A.M. start under cloud cover meant the first half hour had to be seen off, to the tune of 27 in six overs. Then, Khawaja began the seventh with a sublime six over extra cover and Burns ended the over with an effortless pull over deep square leg. By the tenth over, there were nine boundaries. By the 25th, there were 20. By the end of their innings, there were 38 hits that had peppered the ropes.

Much of that was against spin, and it is that aspect that indicates the duo might yet be able to tackle the responsibilities of a No. 4 or 5. Burns, a tall man with long reach, kept peppering the sightscreen. He brought up his first hundred as an opener in List A cricket with the tenth six of his innings. Khawaja too soon reached his eighth List A century, and in trying to celebrate that with a six, he was caught at long-off.

The run-rate began to dip a bit after that, though, indicating this was not as easy-paced a pitch as the openers made it out. There were only 16 runs between the 36th and the 40th overs. But Dhawal Kulkarni's final two overs went for 28 runs and Australia A's bowlers had a substantial total of 334 for 4 to defend.

To down a target like that, there were two things necessary: a good start from the top order and substantial partnerships down the middle. India A got neither. Their captain Unmukt Chand stirred hopes with a strokeful half-century and Kedar Jadhav tried to avert embarrassment with a fifty of his own, but the bowlers had given away too many runs, and the mounting scoreboard pressure was just a bit too much.

Adam Zampa, unlike the Indians, concentrated on turning the ball and with the batsmen coming at him, his chances of taking wickets were quite bright. He ended up with 4 for 49, including bowling Chand in his first over with a cleverly disguised flipper. Gurinder Sandhu nagged away at another end to pick up 8.3-1-28-4

Essentially, the Australia A showed the hosts how to bat, and how to bowl in their own conditions, and the only interest that the chase sparked was when the final Indian pair were batting and the largest crowd of the tour so far - far more than when Virat Kohli had played here last week - cheered on every dot ball in the hopes of them lasting the full fifty overs. No luck there.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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