Watched by a crowd of 59,659, the largest ever for a cricket match in Sydney, Australia’s new Twenty20 captain George Bailey enjoyed the winner’s plaudits in his first match, just as Dave Gregory had done in the very first Test in 1877 when he was the last Australian to make his debut as captain.
His ingenuity in the field rather contrasted with India’s captain, MS Dhoni. In the penultimate over, with the target well out of reach, Dhoni’s bat flew from his hands as he attempted to make a defiant swing at Brett Lee. The tour has gone the same way, and it did not improve in the format of the IPL.
At the start of what amounts to a five-match Twenty20 and ODI audition for a more permanent berth behind the stumps in place of Brad Haddin, Wade did his cause no harm with an innings of poise, power and some invention after Dhoni sent the hosts in to bat.
Wade and Hussey pushed Australia to 4 for 171, a steep target on a tacky pitch, before Bailey employed a trio of spinners to devastating effect. Hussey took the figures with 2 for 4 from his two overs, but the recalled 40-year-old Brad Hogg and the Twenty20 debutant Xavier Doherty also helped to sink India’s chase after they had made a promising start to be 1 for 47 in the sixth over.
If the chase was to succeed, India’s pursuit likely required a sizeable score from Virender Sehwag. He managed one cut that skimmed to the backward point boundary, but the early swing gained by Lee was enough to draw an edge from a bat angled towards mid-on, and Hussey held the sharp chance at slip.
Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli prospered for a time, lifting the visitors to 1 for 47 in the sixth over. Bailey had brought on the spin of Doherty and Hussey to constrict the rate, and the latter made the vital break by coaxing Gambhir to drive to cover.
Next over brought Hogg’s introduction and he found enough tweak and variation to cause doubts in the minds of the batsmen, despite their education by spin. Kohli tried to swing him out of the stadium, but found less of the middle of the bat than the toe, and was well held by Warner at long on.
India were now slipping badly, and Hussey added to their disquiet by finding a biting off break that bowled Rohit Sharma off his pads for a golden duck. As the reserve Test batsman on tour, Rohit had waited a long time for that one delivery.
Christian nipped out Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja, all the while supported by Bailey’s bright field placements and busy advice from mid-off or cover. Dhoni and Ashwin formed the most notable partnership of the innings, but it served only to decrease the margin of another defeat on tour for the visitors.
Warner had a new opening partner in Wade, and together they set about making a swift start against an opening attack comprising R Ashwin’s spin and the swing of Praveen Kumar – much missed during the Test series.
As he had done in Adelaide, Ashwin kept Warner quiet to begin with, the first over going for only two runs. Wade’s first boundary was a streaky edge off Praveen, and nine from the first 12 balls was a halting start.
But Warner found his range in the third, starting with an outrageous “switch punch” that sailed over wide long off, or long on depending on one’s perspective. He followed up by driving a full toss to the point boundary then swinging another six over Ashwin’s head.
The innings now had momentum, but Warner gave it up by miscuing Vinay Kumar and skying a catch to Raina, running back from extra cover. Warner left unhappily, but his replacement Birt was capable of hitting almost as hard. He found his stride by lofting Vinay over long off, without much apparent effort, but also played out a few dots before he drew blood from the hands of Rahul Sharma with a fearfully struck drive that was technically a dropped return catch.
Birt eventually perished to Ashwin, picking out Raina at cover, but his exit appeared to rouse Wade. To that point he had played neatly for 36 from 25 balls, but his next 34 were thrashed from only 14. Twice he cleared the fence, and each blow added intrigue to his battle with Haddin for the Australia wicketkeeper’s spot.
A brief rain delay did not reduce Australia’s allocation, but it did change the game’s rhythm, and Wade was out to his second ball faced on resumption, bowled when trying to cut Raina off the stumps. Hussey and Bailey struggled initially to find the boundary, but Hussey connected with one clean blow in the final over to help the hosts past 170, a total that proved to be well beyond India.