The match started with a maiden. Silence before a storm that absolutely blew India out of its way. Six-hitting has seldom been made to look easier: David Warner and Shane Watson just kept clearing their front legs, creating room, and kept lofting the Indians over various parts of the Kensington Oval. Finding gaps and all they didn't care about. Between them they hit 13 sixes and only three fours, and by the time they were done, 142 runs had been scored in 14 overs. Australia's last four overs for 23 runs were silence before another storm: during which their awesome attack annihilated India, except for Rohit Sharma, the only one of eight batsmen to reach double figures.
The same ample and true bounce that worked for Australia hurt India. That the ball came on, coupled with the short boundaries, gave Watson and Warner the confidence to go for their big hits. The Indian batsmen, though, with no option to duck or leave thanks to the huge chase, were almost always in bad position when playing the short deliveries. And they got plenty of them at a healthy pace.
That Rohit was playing in the first place, an extra batsman keeping India's attack down to two seamers, could be argued to be a defensive move even before the match started.
Out of a spinner-dominated attack, Harbhajan Singh was a bowler apart: he bowled that initial maiden and went for just 15 in his four overs. By comparison, Ravindra Jadeja, who will want to delete May 7 from the 2010 calendar, went for 36 in six deliveries spread over two overs. That after he had dropped Watson when only on 7, and before he ran himself out by running away from the stumps. That Jadeja was brought to bowl a second over after being hit for three successive sixes exposed a rare tactical error from MS Dhoni: he had not left himself with a great choice of bowlers.
The subdued start that Watson got off to against Harbhajan, though, would have given Dhoni false confidence. After facing seven consecutive dot balls first up, Watson just exploded, pulling Ashish Nehra way over long-on for six. The template had been set. Both the batsmen sat back, took their leading legs out of the way, and hardly hit anything off anywhere but the middle of the bat.
Jadeja contributed to the onslaught, bowling short repeatedly, and Watson brutalised him over midwicket, cow corner and square leg. By the time Jadeja came back, in the 10th over, Australia had consolidated on the start, Zaheer Khan had looked ineffective, and Warner had warmed up, reaching 29 off 25 with Watson on 47 off 29. Three balls later, he came level with Watson, with sixes either side of a widish long-on and a huge one over midwicket. Both the barrels had started firing, and we were in for a contest as to who would hit more sixes.
Watson, already ahead by one, hit Yusuf Pathan for another big one in the next over, but was bowled immediately after by a delivery that kept low. Warner showed no signs of slowing down, hitting Yusuf and Yuvraj Singh for three sixes in the next three overs before edging one that bounced extra.
Yuvraj, Nehra and Zaheer, who bowled well at the death, kept India one short of the dubious record for most sixes in an innings, 17. Soon Rohit would find himself in a fight to avoid the biggest defeat in a Twenty20 international featuring two major sides.
Dirk Nannes and Shaun Tait were simply too quick for the top order. Limp shots, batsmen jumping to negotiate accurate bumpers, bottom hand coming off while playing them, lobbed catches inside the circle, a superb yorker and a bit of silly running thrown in, and India were 50 for 7. M Vijay got an edge trying to drag Nannes from outside off, Gautam Gambhir was hurried and had by a Nannes bouncer, Suresh Raina followed a top-edged six with another top edge off Tait that went nowhere and could even had hit his stumps had Michael Clarke not caught the skier.
Rohit's clean and assured hitting, 79 off 46 balls, not only delayed the defeat, it also made a case for his selection ahead of either Jadeja or Yusuf and kept the net run-rate damage down.