Match Analysis

Pandya's six-hitting ability is special

Former India opener Aakash Chopra looks at five talking points from the series opener

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra
Good length not good on flat Indian pitches
Australia dismissed the first three Indian batsmen with reasonably full-length deliveries and the next two well-set batsmen with the short ball. While the good-length ball mostly serves the purpose of keeping batsmen quiet, it doesn't create wicket-taking chances. But if you bowl really full, you encourage an attacking response from the batsman, which could lead to mistakes.
Against Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli, Coulter-Nile left a huge gap in the cover region. He had only a square point and a slightly wide mid-off. He pitched fuller, got the ball to shape away, and both batsmen fell to expansive drives. The ball to Manish Pandey was a half-volley, which he edged to the wicketkeeper. I often wonder why more new-ball bowlers don't pitch really full and wide once in a while when the batsman isn't fully set. While the mind may tell the batsman to be cautious, it also sees the ball that full and automatically reacts. This conflict can result in a mistake.
Once both Rohit Sharma and Kedar Jadhav were set, and the new ball had stopped moving, bowling fuller wasn't a wicket-taking option anymore and so Marcus Stoinis used the short ball to good effect. Chepauk has fairly large square boundaries and challenging the Indian batsmen to take them on was a ploy worth trying. The noteworthy point was the line of the short-pitched deliveries: none were at the body and the batsmen had to drag them from outside off, which resulted in the lack of control in executing the pull.
No boundaries behind square until the 45th over
Bowling full or short wasn't the only plan the Australian quicks had. The were also disciplined enough to consistently bowl outside off. Until the 45th over of the innings, India did not score a boundary behind square on the leg side. There were no fine tickles or guiding shots because you can play these shots only to balls veering in towards leg stump.
Pandya's six-hitting ability special
There was nothing wrong with what Adam Zampa did when Hardik Pandya creamed him for three consecutive sixes. The legspinner bowled flatter and fuller in the hope of making it difficult for Pandya to get under the ball and get requisite elevation. But that's where Pandya stands out, for unlike most batsmen, he doesn't need to use his feet to gain momentum while going aerial down the ground. Anyone who can hit sixes against spin without using the feet will be an asset because the bowler doesn't have any inkling of the batsman's plan and can't adjust.
If Zampa knew Pandya wouldn't stop at just one six, he may have gone slower and wider on the following deliveries, but the lack of feet movement from Pandya kept the bowler guessing. The other thing that stands out in Pandya's hitting is his preference of targeting the straight boundary as much as possible.
Faulker's death-bowling inconsistency
Until a few years ago, James Faulkner used to be a good end-overs bowler. He was capable of bowling yorkers consistently and the back-of-the-hand slower ball was a well-disguised delivery. But that's a thing of the past. His attempted yorkers are no longer finding the right spot and his pace is ideal for hitting the length ball or the full toss. And if the yorker isn't landing perfectly, the slower one also loses its sting because it is overused. It was a tactical goof up on Steven Smith's part to let Faulkner bowl two of the last three overs. While it's understandable that Smith was tempted to use Cummins and Coulter-Nile in short bursts to break partnerships, it was a little ambitious to hope that Faulkner would finish strongly.
Clueless against spin
The way some of the Australians batted against wristspin indicated they didn't have a clue as to which way the ball would turn. It was all the more perplexing because some of them have played in the IPL for a while. While the two new balls did make it a little tougher for Australia early on, the presence of five fielders in the circle for 13 overs should have negated that disadvantage, if only their middle-order batsmen could read wristspin.

Aakash Chopra is the author of three books, the latest of which is The Insider: Decoding the craft of cricket. @cricketaakash