India fine-tuned their T20 World Cup preparations with a convincing eight-wicket win over Australia in their final warm-up game in Dubai on Wednesday but the sixth bowler’s slot remained a worry as even Virat Kohli rolled his arm over going into the tournament proper. Captaining the side with Kohli only taking the field to bowl, Rohit Sharma (60 retired off 41) showed sublime touch alongside opening partner K.L. Rahul (39 off 31) as India chased down Australia’s 152 for five in 17.5 overs. Suryakumar Yadav (38 not out off 27) came at number three in Kohli’s absence and got valuable time in the middle which should boost his confidence going ahead.
Hardik Pandya (14 not out off 8) came at four to finish the game and he did it with a clean hit over the bowler’s head. Another plus for India was seasoned pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar finding a rhythm after a poor outing against England. India had also beaten England in their earlier practice game. The batting department looks more or less settled and the five specialist bowlers also inspire confidence but the same can’t be said about the extra bowling option with Hardik not bringing his all-around skills to the table at the moment.
“Hardik is coming along pretty well, but it’ll be a while before he will start to bowl. He hasn’t started bowling, but he should be ready by the start of the tournament,” said Rohit at the toss for the warm-up match against Australia. The team management is hoping he will be ready to bowl during India’s World Cup campaign which begins with the marquee clash against Pakistan on Sunday. Skipper Kohli kept things tight with two overs of medium pace but to expect him to do the job in high-pressure scenarios would be asking for too much from him. India conceded 58 runs off the last five overs and that is something they would like to improve on.
After losing the toss, India put up a decent bowling effort. Rohit mentioned at the toss that Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Shami were rested from the game but the skipper took the field to bowl a couple of overs in which he conceded 12 runs. India had Australia on the mat at 11 for three after Aaron Finch opted to bat first. David Warner’s barren run continued after a failed attempt at a reverse sweep had him trapped in front of Ravichandran Ashwin. With his very next ball, Ashwin got rid of birthday boy Mitchell Marsh who played for the turn which wasn’t there only to edge it to the first slip.
Ravindra Jadeja had Finch trapped LBW with a slider of his very first ball, leaving Australia with a lot of work to do. Steve Smith (57 off 48) and in-form Glenn Maxwell (37 off 28) tried to break the shackles with a 61-run partnership. While Maxwell used his reverse sweep to good effect, Smith kept himself busy by rotating the strike. After Maxwell fell to a conventional sweep, Smith and Marcus Stoinis (41 not out off 25 balls) got together and provided a much-needed final flourish to the innings.
Smith smashed Shardul Thakur for three successive fours in the 17th over before Stoinis hit a straight six and a boundary off mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy, who conceded 23 runs off his two overs. After a bad day in office against England, Bhuvneshwar found his rhythm and was effective both at the start and in the death. India, however, would be a tad disappointed to give away so many runs in the death overs and help Australia’s recovery.