Dejected Steve Smith Rues Loss Promises Fightback, While Virat Hails Pandya

Picture Courtesy : Hindustan Times

Picture Courtesy : Hindustan Times

Australia captain Steve Smith admitted that his side did not execute their plans properly during the first ODI against India and vowed to come back stronger in the remaining matches of the series.

“Would have been nice to have won the game. But it’s the first in a five-match series and four (games are) left in the series. Would need to win three to win the series. (We) got to come back hard in a couple of days’ time. It did not work out as we would have liked. Hopefully, we would turn things around in Kolkata,” Smith said at the post-match press conference.

“The rain came and it was obviously never going to be easy chasing 160 with the new balls. We could have perhaps played a little bit differently and try to take a little bit more time upfront. We have to get better with our plans,” he said , in report by PTI .

Australia fell short by 26 runs while chasing 164 for a win from 21 overs under D/L method, and Smith said the partnership between Hardik Pandya-M S Dhoni in the India innings turned out to be the game-changer.

Pandya and Dhoni stitched 118 runs together for the sixth wicket to scrip a brilliant recovery act for India after the top-half was blown away for only 87 runs.

“They (Pandya and Dhoni) put a 120-odd and took them from 87 to 206. In the end, that proved to be a match-winning partnership. We started very well with the new ball but MS (Dhoni) and Hardik (Pandya) played very well,” he said.

He rued about some of the mistakes his side committed, including a dropped catch by himself.

“It’s not ideal. You always want to take catches. I obviously dropped an early one and one that sort of yorked me. It was not ideal that we were not able to capitalise on what was a very good start (for us),” said the Australian captain.

Smith said the plan was to bowl Pat Cummins at the end but had to change it as the innings progressed with Dhoni batting well towards the end.

“I had my plan to begin with Coulter-Nile and finish with (Pat) Cummins. But when they (India) lost Hardik, I thought Nathan could have come back and I wanted to go for the throat. Obviously MS hit Jimmy pretty well in the end. Was not ideal but that’s cricket. MS is a quality player and dangerous at the end,” he added.

He said he had given a thought of changing the batting order but felt that it was an opportunity for Hilton Cartwright to have a go. Smith hoped the all-rounder would find his feet and score runs in the games to come.

“I did think about it. But I thought it was a good opportunity for Hilton to get into the game. It was probably the hardest time to bat with the new ball. It did not come off tonight. Hopefully he (Cartwright) can rectify and score some runs a lot more,” he said.

Smith, one of the key batsmen for his team, felt the reduction in overs due to intermittent rains affected his side’s chances.

“It’s always nice to get the full 50 overs in. That’s what we are here to play. But I think it was raining pretty hard at that point when we were off.

“I think 160 with one new ball would have made things a lot easier. When you have two new balls from both ends, as you saw the whole game, they found it hard. It was the same for us. You don’t have a great deal of time to make things up. Perhaps, we could have been a little bit more defensive at the start and go a bit harder,” said Smith.

He played down the fact that they had focused too much on wrist spinners and said they had been facing fast bowlers too at the nets.

“We certainly have not been focusing only on wrist spin. We have been facing fast bowlers and other net bowlers. India have some quality seamers as well. We have not been just focusing on that, I can assure you that,” Smith said.

The Australian captain said his side were aware that there would be knuckle balls but losing wickets regularly hurt the team.

“I think they have seen it now. Guys knew what they were going to come with it. Maybe, watched a bit of the series in Sri Lanka, where they bowled quite a few (knuckle balls). (It) was not any surprise to us. Batting for 20 overs is difficult when you are losing wickets.

Meanwhile , Indian captain Virat Kohli was all praise for his team’s middle order and Hardik Pandya in particular after India’s 26 run (D/L) win over Australia. On a day when India’s formidable top order failed to fire, the likes of Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya stepped up to help the hosts put up a formidable total. Pandya scored a blistering 83 off 66 balls that took away the momentum from Australia in a rain-soaked first ODI at Chennai’s MA Chidambaram stadium.

“Hardik believes in himself, and his innings was the game-changer,” said Kohli in the post-match presentation, “He possesses all three skills equally and we are lucky to have him.” Australia’s innings started late and their target was reduced to 164 that they had to get in 21 overs. Pandya chipped in at this point as well, picking the all-important wicket of Australian skipper Steve Smith and that of Travis Head.

Kohli also said that India’s middle order and bowling strength was on show in Chennai, “Today was an example, Sri Lanka was the example of how good the middle and lower order can be,” he said, “The bowlers were outstanding as well. It is a matter of giving players confidence. Chahal is very brave and doesn’t say no to any situation. Bhuvi and Bumrah very clinical and our bank bowlers. After the rain, we felt this was our best T20 attack. We can’t have a more perfect combination.”

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