Australia followed a basic approach, something that was unconventional for their opening pair but something that had brought success to India’s batting only a few hours earlier. Aaron Finch and David Warner started slow but steady – 29 for no loss in 9 overs. However, just when it seemed that Finch was about to take off, having hit 14 runs in three balls off Hardik Pandya, four overs later he found himself short while attempting a quick two.
Warner continued his good form, and stroked another fifty, but failed to be at his aggressive best. He managed only five boundaries through the course of his 84-ball stay, allowing the required rate to creep. Smith, promoted to No. 3, too failed to do any good to that. Much like Finch, Warner fell just when it seemed like he was ready to up the tempo, slog sweeping Yuzvendra Chahal to deep mid wicket.
Usman Khawaja came at 4. The southpaw took time to settle in, Smith’s scoring rate too dropped drastically as the Indian spinners – Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav – tightened the scoring rate in the middle overs. However, both batsmen picked up, kept striking around run-a-ball and stitched a third successive half-century partnership.
What seemed like a risky move, in turn, turned productive as Maxwell’s early assault – including three boundaries in an over off Bumrah – allowed Australia to move to 235 for 3, marginally ahead of India’s 230 for 2 at the same stage.
All this, before Bhuvneshwar’s double-wicket 40th over that turned the tide in favour of India again. To dent their chase further, Maxwell too fell in the next over top-edging a slog off Chahal.
Alex Carey’s late hits, a 25-ball fifty – the fastest in this World Cup – helped Australia stay on par with India’s score till the end of 45th over, but the pressure was being mounted from the other end with wickets and dots. Eventually, Australia’s lower order came second best as they were bundled out for 316.
It was a day when all of India’s much-famed top-three – Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Dhawan hits a fantastic century while Rohit and Kohli scored fifty each. The innings of all three was very characteristic in nature, started slowly and paced up as the innings progressed.
India started slowly against Australia’s new-ball pair of Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc even as there was negligible assistance for the bowlers on the wicket. However, Dhawan began the attack in the eighth over, stroking three consecutive boundaries off Nathan Coulter-Nile. Having managed only 22 runs off the first seven overs, they plundered 89 off the next 13 to give India’s innings a move on.
Much unlike Dhawan, who hit 16 fours through the course of his 109-ball 117, Rohit and Kohli largely relied on working the ball around in the field. The duo combined to hit only seven boundaries and three sixes in their total of 139.
By the time Dhawan was dismissed, India had found themselves cushioned in a strong position – 220 for 2 in 37 overs – allowing them to promote the hard-hitting Hardik Pandya to No. 4. Much like Rohit, who was dropped by Coulter-Nile in the second over, Pandya too received a reprieve early in his innings when Carey missed an easy chance off a thick edge.
The all-rounder took due advantage of that and his assault put Australian bowlers off their lines and lengths, the mercies of which were passed on even to Kohli who cashed in on their erratics en route his 77-ball 82. Starc and Cummins, who had bowled an economical first spell, were carted around in the death overs. MS Dhoni and KL Rahul too added some quick as India amassed the highest score by any team against Australia in a World Cup.
The total worked well as Australia were always playing the catch-up, an attempt in which they eventually fell short against the death over skills of Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah, who bagged three wickets each to bundle them out 36 runs short.