All-rounder Cameron Green, playing as an opener in professional cricket for the time, took India by surprise and along with Matthew Wade led Australia to a thumping 4-wicket win in the first T20I and a 1-0 lead in the three-match series here on Tuesday.
After a disastrous final over in which Hardik Pandya blasted him for three back-to-back sixes, Green redeemed himself and played an imposing knock, smashing eight fours and four sixes in a 30-ball 61 at the Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium.
Despite opening the innings for the very first time, the 23-year-old didn't look nervous at all in front of a packed stadium. On the other hand, an experienced Indian bowling line-up looked clueless, till the time Green remained at the crease.
Chasing a big target of 209 runs, Australian openers Aaron Finch and Cameron Green made their intent clear from the word go. They found the swing of Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to their liking and smashed 38 in the first three overs.
But, Axar Patel came into the attack and dismissed Finch with a slider to give India an all-important breakthrough. Despite Finch's wicket, Green was in no mood to slow down and made full use of the restrictions, taking Australia to 60/1 at the end of the powerplay.
Steven Smith, who came in to bat at No 3, was happy playing second fiddle as Green continued his aggressive approach to hit his fifty in just 26 balls. Australia were cruising towards the target at a rapid pace, bringing their hundred. They knocked off more than half of the target in 10 overs.
The drinks break brought welcome change for India as Axar, who dropped Green on 40, made amendments by removing the dangerous batter. Green skyed a big hit down to long-on where Kohli settled under it well to take a good catch, sending the opener back after his 30-ball 61.
Umesh Yadav, who wasn't that effective in his first two overs, dismissed Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell in the same over. Axar, India's best bowler on the day with 3-17, then bowled Josh Inglis around his legs.
In between 11th and 15th over, Australia lost four wickets for 36 runs which opened a door for India, before it was firmly shut by Wade, who led the late charge.With 55 needed going into the last four overs, the match was hanging in balance but Wade smashed Harshal Patel (22 in one over) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (31 in two overs) to close out the chase.
He remained unbeaten on 45 off 21 balls to take Australia over the victory line in 19.2 overs with four wickets in hand.Earlier, brilliant fifties by Hardik Pandya (71 not out off 30), and K.L Rahul (55 off 35) and a vital knock by Suryakumar Yadav (46 off 25) powered India to 208/6 in 20 overs.
Put into bat first, India made a sedate start as the Australian pacers, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins were getting some movement off the pitch. India openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul had to come down the track to counter that.
With runs not coming easily, Rohit tried to counterattack by playing some risky shots and hit Cummins for a lucky six and four. He got lucky once but while going for another flick shot, the India skipper got out as Nathan Ellis took a fine running catch coming in from deep midwicket.
India had high hopes from the man in form, Virat Kohli but he couldn't do much as Australia had their plans worked out well for him. Adam Zampa came on early to build up a series of dot balls and after scoring 3 off 7, Kohli tried to get under Nathan Ellis but presented a simple catch to mid-on, leaving India at 35-2 after 4.5 overs.
From there on, Rahul and Suryakumar Yadav built a solid partnership of 68-runs and brought India back into the game.After taking his sweet time, Rahul didn't miss out on anything in his hitting zone and especially his pick-up shot was top-notch and got him a couple of sixes.
On the other hand, Suryakumar also was complementing Rahul well with regular boundaries as the duo didn't let the run-rate slowdown and took India to 86/2 after 10 overs.Rahul, who has been criticised for his slow strike rate, scored his century off just 32 balls and was on course to take India to a big total. But, on a pick-up shot, he found a fielder at the fine-leg fence.
After Rahul's wicket, Suryakumar became more attacking and smashed back-to-back sixes off Adam Zampa. But in the next over, he tried to nudge Cameron Green to third man and ended up edging to the 'keeper. The left-hander Axar Patel was sent in ahead of Dinesh Karthik but he managed just a boundary in his five-ball stay before getting out to Nathan Ellis on a slower ball.
At 146-5 in 15.5 overs, it was up to Hardik Pandya and Karthik to finish well for India. While Karthik was disappointed by scoring only six runs, Hardik shone like a star.The all-rounder got to his half-century in just 26 balls to do some backend lifting.
Hardik hit the last three balls of the innings, bowled by Cameron Green, for three sixes and helped India finish with 208/6 in 20 Overs. For Australia, medium pacer Nathan Ellis 3/30 was the pick of the bowlers.
Brief scores: India 208/6 in 20 overs (Hardik Pandya 71 not out, KL Rahul 55; Nathan Elis 3/30, Josh Hazlewood 2/39) lost to Australia 211/6 in 19.2 overs (Cameron Green 61, Matthew Wade 45 not out; Axar Patel 3/17 by 4 wickets