The Surprise of the Quick Bouncer
How India lost three of their most important wickets against Australia
The first of the three ODIs between Australia and India kicked off on 27 November 2020 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The home team got off to a good start with the openers having a partnership of over 150 runs. The Aussies went on to put up a total of 374 runs on the board — a fit challenge for the strong Indian batting side.
With the immense amount of bounce offered on Australian pitches, both teams expected a swarm of bouncers throughout their innings. Steve Smith, who suffered a concussion during the 2019 Ashes and has struggled regularly with bouncers, is a target for the Indian bouncers. However, assistant coach for Australia, Andrew McDonald said that he doesn’t see the shorter ball as a weakness for Smith and India can keep coming at him that way if they want.
KL Rahul, along with the help of his senior teammate Ravichandran Ashwin, took an innovative approach to practice for the pace and bounce of the Australian pitches. By using tennis balls delivered to him from a closer distance, Rahul can improve his reflexes. Ashwin uses the racquet to increase the pace of the tennis balls forcing him to act quickly while also making the right decision. Rahul is seen playing the pull shot but trying to get on top of the ball and keep it down, something his skipper, Virat Kohli, is quite strong at.
However, the bounce at Australia seemed to catch Kohli along with two others off guard. India lost their first three wickets within the first ten overs, and all were short deliveries. The first to lose their wicket to the deadly bouncer was Mayank Agarwal who tried to lift it past the boundary but did not expect the bouncer to come at him so quickly and was easily caught by the man at cover. Agarwal did have a strong albeit short innings, scoring 22 runs off 18 balls with two fours and a six.
Skipper, Virat Kohli was next to the crease and like Agarwal, started quite strong. He was delivered a quick bouncer early in his innings which, lucky for him, was dropped by Adam Zampa. The next ball was exactly the same and Kohli had learned from his mistake and beautifully pulled the ball for a four. The skipper continued strongly and was quickly adding runs to the board.
Just when he began to settle at the crease, he was surprised with another quick bouncer and was caught by Australian skipper Aaron Finch. Kohli came down the ground and tried to pull the shot but was cramped for room and couldn’t execute his shot well.
Next, Shreyas Iyer walked out onto the crease and needed to stay out there for some time with Shikhar Dhawan and build a strong partnership for the team. Australian pacer, Josh Hazelwood decided to attack the new batsman with the quick bouncer. Iyer was clearly surprised, and while trying to avoid the ball colliding with his helmet, he clipped it with his bat. Iyer sent the ball straight into the air, and it was easily caught by the wicketkeeper, Alex Carey.
Australian skipper, Aaron Finch was also caught out by a bouncer by Jasprit Bumrah in the first innings. Finch tried an uppercut for the short delivery but it was too late. The ball went straight up into the air, and KL Rahul took the catch quite easily.
Shikhar Dhawan and Hardik Pandya were carrying on well with both batsmen scoring half-centuries. Pandya attacked the bowlers and reached his half-century before Dhawan while Dhawan slowed down, and his strike rate dropped well under 100.
Dhawan felt the pressure to up his strike rate and chose to go after Zampa. In an attempt to lift the ball over long-off, Dhawan mistimed his shot and found Mitchell Starc quite easily. This meant that India’s final strong batsman, Ravindra Jadeja, was now at the crease and the pressure was on Pandya and Jadeja to up the run rate but also keep their wicket. Pandya gave in to the pressure four overs later when he lost his wicket to Adam Zampa. With the loss of Pandya, India’s fate was pretty much sealed.
Australian went on to win the match by 66 runs and therefore lead the ODI series 1-0. India will have to adjust to the pace and bounce of the Australian pitches for the rest of the series.