The Indians started their limited-overs tour of Australia with a comfortable 74-win over Western Australia XI in a Twenty20 match at the WACA Ground in Perth, where they will play the first ODI against Australia on January 12. On a lively pitch, the Indian batsmen took a bit of time to get their bearings right, but the two Delhi batsmen, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, entertained a healthy crowd – 4000 by some estimates – with 74 runs each to take India to 192. With the ball left-arm quick Barinder Sran made a good impression with two wickets in his first spell, and then the spin trio of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel proved to be too good for the hosts, which didn’t include any of the Perth Scorchers personnel.
“It was a great boost for Barry,” said Dhawan at the post-match press conference. “We call him Barry now. In time he is going to get more experienced and more mature. He looks fit and strong, and looks a good prospect for the Indian team.”
Although this was not an 11-play-11 match, India didn’t try anything funky. There were no retirements to give the remaining batsmen a go: Kohli and Dhawan’s 149-run partnership ended in the 17th over, which meant there was not much chance for the others to get a longish innings in. A matter of small concern will be that Mohammed Shami, coming back from a long injury layoff, didn’t bowl at all. There will be another game, a 50-over one, against the same opposition at the same venue on Saturday.
Indian tour began on a familiar note: an ordinary decision by Rohit Sharma, who pushed to mid-off and set off for a suicidal single. Dhawan and Kohli, though, coming together in the third over, took their time before hitting out against an inexperienced attack. The Western Australian quicks bowled short often with mixed results, but once legspinners Liam O’Connor and James Muirhead started bowling short, the two dug in. There was a bit of toying around later as Indians went from 44 for 1 in seven overs to 161 in the 17th.
Kohli and Dhawan both fell in quest for further quicker runs, but MS Dhoni provided the final push with two sixes in his 22 off 14. Further good news came for India as Sran began a sharp spell at the top of the innings, taking two wickets in three overs for 15 runs. Umesh Yadav and Rishi Dhawan were steady at the other end before the spinners came on to take complete control of the match. Jadeja and Axar took two wickets each while R Ashwin hardly bowled a loose ball. Between them the three spinners bowled 10 overs for 36 runs and four wickets.
“I’m quite happy that I have scored runs in the practice match,” said Dhawan. “It is good that I have got used to this pitch. The longer you spend in the middle the better it is. It was a good time to get into the groove. Good to get get a hundred-run partnership before the main matches start. Whatever we needed from this match we got it. We are happy about it.”
Left-hand opening batsman Travis Birt was the sole bright light for Western Australia XI in the chase as he hit the ball hard in his unbeaten 74 off 60 balls. The rest of the team, extras included, managed just 54 in the other 10 overs.