Is there anything Cameron Green can’t do?
Green and Matthew Wade steered Australia to a four-wicket victory over India on Wednesday morning AEST, with the visitors pulling off their second-highest successful run chase in T20 cricket.
Australia reached the 209-run target with four balls to spare at Mohali’s Punjab Cricket Association Stadium to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match bilateral series.
With four first-choice players missing due to injury and workload management, Australia was forced to experiment with its starting XI for the series opener against India.
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Green was elevated to open the batting alongside captain Aaron Finch, effectively replacing veteran batter David Warner, while T20 globetrotter Tim David was given his maiden Australian cap.
Queensland cricket legend Matthew Hayden could hardly believe the decision to open with Green, declaring on commentary: “I’m assuming that won’t be the batting order.”
But the gamble does not pay dividends; Green top-scored for Australia with an explosive 61 off 30 balls that featured eight boundaries and four sixes, also contributing two catches and the wicket of Suryakumar Yadav.
The 23-year-old had previously never opened the batting in any format, but the West Australian proved his versatility by smacking his first four deliveries of the match to the boundary rope.
There was audible howling from the commentary box when Green muscled Umesh Yadav’s second ball of the evening back down the ground.
“Kind of got thrown in the deep end a little bit, but it was nice to bat with Finchy,” player of the match Green, who reached his maiden T20I half-century in 26 balls, said after the victory.
“He is an experienced campaigner and keeps you calm in the middle.
“We had the luxury of watching the Indians bat … it kind of gave us an idea of how to go about it.”
Green, playing his first cricket match in India, laid the foundation for Australia’s record run chase before he was dismissed by spinner Axar Patel in the 11th over.
The young all-rounder’s feat was all the more impressive considering he had only played one T20 international before the India tour and was omitted from Australia’s squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup.
Green also becomes just the second Australian cricketer to score 1000 runs and take 30 wickets in men’s internationals before their 24th birthday, joining the legendary Steve Waugh.
“That was a phenomenal performance,” former Australia batter Brad Hodge told ESPNCricinfo.
“This is a kid that’s not even in the T20 World Cup side.
“To come in like that and perform in a really tough environment — the wicket was good no doubt, but it’s the two best sides playing against each other with great records.
“To be able to dismantle the Indian bowling line-up like that was impressive.”
Last week, Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin predicted that IPL franchises would scramble over Green at next year’s IPL Auction, and Wednesday’s onslaught certainly won’t harm his chances of pocketing a seven-figure sum.
Green’s dismissal sparked a collapse of sorts, with Australia losing 4/36 from 25 deliveries to bring India back into the contest.
But Wade, who finished unbeaten with 45 from 21 balls, combined with David for a crucial 62-run partnership for the sixth wicket to rescue the Australians.
Despite playing predominantly as an opener for the Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League, Wade has found success as a finisher in Australian colors over the last 12 months.
The wicketkeeper famously booked Australia’s spot in last year’s T20 World Cup final in the United Arab Emirates by cracking an unbeaten 41 off 17 balls in the semi-final against Pakistan.
Finch, who recently retired from ODI cricket, is under mounting pressure to unearth some runs before the T20 World Cup campaign kicks off on home soil next month.
But the Australian skipper proved his fearlessness by slapping the first delivery of the run chase over the long-off boundary for six.
Finch was later dismissed by Patel, who finished with superb figures of 3/17 from four overs, during the Powerplay for 22.
Meanwhile, India were plagued by fielding errors throughout the run chase, with Green, Wade and Steve Smith each gifted extra lives at the crease.
Earlier in the match, Indian opener KL Rahul and all-rounder Hardik Pandya smacked quick fifties to guide the hosts towards an intimidating total of 6/208.
Pandya pummeled three sixes off the final three deliveries of the innings to help India register its highest total against Australia in the 20-over format.
Tasmania seamer Nathan Ellis, who was rushed into the starting XI for a last-minute replacement for Kane Richardson, was the pick of the Aussie bowlers with three wickets, including the prized scalp of Indian superstar Virat Kohli.
Ellis has taken 12 T20I wickets at 9.00 since making his Australian debut in Bangladesh last year, leaking just 6.75 runs per over in four matches.
The second T20I between India and Australia gets underway in Nagpur on Friday evening, with the first ball scheduled for 11.30pm AEST.
Most T20I wickets after four matches
14 — Ajantha Mendis (SL)
12 – Nathan Ellis (AUS)
11 — Hassan Mehmood (SWE)
11 – Harvir Baidwan (CAN)