Australia edged India by four runs for a nerve-wracking win in their opening Twenty20 Wednesday despite a gallant 76 from Shikhar Dhawan, giving them a huge confidence boost after a run of poor results.
With a rain-marred match in Brisbane reduced to 17 overs, the visitors were set 174 to win under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern system after the hosts made 158-4, Glenn Maxwell top-scoring with 46.
India needed 13 off the last over from Marcus Stoinis, but in a desperate bid to get the runs two wickets fell and they missed the target.
It eased the pressure on Australia who have been struggling to find their feet after the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in March.
They have endured a dire run of results since and had lost fours T20s before this one.
“The boys played really well especially through the middle overs with the bat. They showed a lot of courage,” said skipper Aaron Finch.
“The bowling was outstanding under a lot of pressure. I was confident. Stoinis was the one I pencilled in to do that job at the end. He had clear plans and executed his plans really well.”
Indian captain Virat Kohli called it an “exciting see-saw battle”.
“A lot of Indians came to support us. It was a great atmosphere to play in,” he said.
“We bowled well and then they came back into the game with Stoinis and Maxy (Maxwell) batting well. And a really good knock from Shikhar (for us).”
Dhawan opened the innings in the run chase and immediately began plundering the Australian attack, smashing two boundaries off Jason Behrendorff’s opening over.
Behrendorff got the scalp of dangerman Rohit Sharma for seven, but there was no stopping Dhawan who hit 16 off one over to bring up his ninth T20 50 off just 28 balls.
Lokesh Rahul made 13 before he was cleverly stumped by Alex Carey, bringing Kohli to the crease to huge roars from the big Indian contingent.
But he didn’t last long, gone for four with Chris Lynn taking a catch at third man off Adam Zampa. And Dhawan wasn’t far behind, caught on the boundary ropes attempting an uppercut off Billy Stanlake’s bowling.
– Quick-fire –
It left Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik needing to score 78 runs off 36 balls. They whittled it down to set up a nail-biting finish before succumbing to the pressure.
Earlier, Maxwell smacked four sixes in an explosive display before the heavens opened and the teams were called off by the umpires after 16.1 overs.
After an hour-long delay, they came back out to face five balls and Maxwell was out to the first of them, with Australia making 158-4.
Experienced bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar had set the early tone, restricting Finch and D’Arcy Short to just 12 runs off the opening three overs after Kohli put them into bat.
Short fell to Khaleel Ahmed for seven, bringing Lynn to the crease and he set the Gabba on fire by crunching three huge sixes in one loose over from Ahmed.
Finch went for 27 soon after when fooled by a wrong’un from Kuldeep Yadav and Lynn also fell to the spinner after a quick-fire 37 off 20 balls.
Maxwell played himself in then went into Lynn mode, whacking three successive sixes to take 23 off a Krunal Pandya over.
Ably partnered by Stoinis — who clubbed an unbeaten 33 — they put on 78 before the weather halted their progress.