The 32-year-old batsman had smashed 100 in the 85-run victory on Thursday and the skipper hit another big score with a 76-run (eight fours) knock in Ireland’s eight-wicket triumph in Dubai.
It was the UAE’s third consecutive loss to the European nation, having also tasted defeat in the Desert T20 in January.
Having electing to bat first after winning the toss, UAE’s experiment in promoting Mohammad Naveed to the top of the order backfired when the 29-year-old was out for just four in the first over.
Captain Rohan Mustafa (17) and Ghulam Shabber (1) both fell to Andy McBrine in quick succession as the hosts were 43-3 with just eight overs played.
Shaiman Anwar (48) and Rameez Shahzad (41) revived the innings with a 76-run stand, which ultimately was their biggest partnership of the day as the hosts were all out for 202 in 47 overs.
Craig Young (3-48) and Andy McBrine (3-42) were the pick of the bowlers for Ireland.
Porterfield and Paul Stirling (41) gave them a strong start before Imran Haider removed the latter. Porterfield became Zahoor Khan’s only victim but Andy Balbirnie’s unbeaten 58 saw them home in 47 overs.
Australia were expected to roll over and play dead during their four-Test series against India. At least that’s the impression one got after reading the comments of former India spinner Harbhajan Singh, who said if the Aussies play well enough, they might lose 3-0 rather than being whitewashed.
India were the favourites going into the series and Australia didn’t have much to lose as they were turning over a new leaf after overhauling their side late last year. Even so, the way in which Steven Smith’s team pulverised the Indians inside three days, stunned everyone, including me. The Indians being thoroughly outplayed in their own game was a remarkable achievement.
Firstly, the Australians need to be given full credit for coming to India fully prepared for all eventualities and staying one step ahead of the hosts in almost every session. Their batsmen showed immense application, be it Smith who gave a masterclass on how to bat on a wicket where the ball was turning square, or Mitchell Starc who smashed the Indian spinners down the ground in both inning and ended up scoring 91 from 94 balls with six hits over the fence.
Their bowling attack was dominated by left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe who altered his line and action after the start of India’s first innings to make the most of a wicket where all that the spinners needed to do was put the ball in the right area and at optimum speed. It was a simple formula that worked brilliantly for O’Keefe, who was duly rewarded with 12 wickets in the match.
So, does the 333-run defeat signal the end of the dream Indian run in Tests and the beginning of a troublesome period? Not quite. And not yet.
It is true that Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja together took 12 wickets, but were not at their best on a pitch that needed less skill and more accuracy. Both the spinners regularly missed the bat by a long way and while that looks good on TV, it doesn’t always translate into wickets. After the Aussies took a 155-run lead, the writing was on the wall and the Indian bowling lost its sting in the second outing.
But this does not mean Ashwin and Jadeja have lost some of their skill or O’Keefe and Lyon are decidedly better than them. On flatter wickets, the variations and skill level of Ashwin and Jadeja will become more apparent. They have been doing so for a year and a half, playing pivotal roles in India’s run of 19 unbeaten Tests before the Pune debacle. When matches are played on wickets like the one we witnessed in the first match, it creates a picture that may not exactly reflect reality when it comes to individual players.
Yes, as a team the Australians were better and grabbed every opportunity that came their way. But it doesn’t mean over the course of the next three matches, O’Keefe and Lyon should continue to outperform Ashwin and Jadeja. The latter duo have proven themselves over many years and the visitors are not an established pair as yet.
We must look at this loss as an aberration though. It will be unfair to this Indian team, if we looked at it any other way.#INDvAUS— Sanjay Manjrekar (@sanjaymanjrekar) February 25, 2017
If the remaining matches are played on flatter wickets, expect the subtle variations of Ashwin to make a greater impact than other bowlers because his fundamentals are still exceptionally strong.
Earlier, when India used to tour outside the subcontinent, they would hope for a spicy wicket so that the gap between their bowlers and that of the hosts reduces and there is a greater chance of victory. But on flat wickets in Australia, England and South Africa, India never really stood a chance.
The situation has reversed now. This home season, the Indians have been brilliant on ‘good’ wickets where it becomes a matter of patience and discipline, both from the batsmen and bowlers.
Kohli has relied on huge first innings totals and the pressure of the scoreboard in the second innings to chip away at the opposition and that is why India had managed to remain unbeaten despite conceding huge first innings totals against England, and even Bangladesh.
India, for the right reasons, started overwhelming favourites. This is an astonishing result for Australia. The underdog has his day.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) February 25, 2017
India will be hoping to return to that template in the second Test in Bangalore. Australia too shouldn’t mind it as that would mean more opportunities for their batsmen to score big and their pacers Starc and Josh Hazlewood to have an impact.
It would be disrespectful to take any credit away from the Australians for their clinical display against massive odds. It would also be unfair to berate the Indians as they have delivered consistently over a long period and maintained a high level of intensity and discipline with the bat, ball and in the field.
As Kohli admitted, the Pune humiliation was a wake-up call and the team realises what needs to be done to raise their game. How they play their cricket from here on will show if the Indians are made of sterner stuff. If not, the confidence in the Australian camp will keep multiplying. And then we can take out the knives and have a go at the No1 Test team.
The 29-year-old will represent Hung Hom JD Jaguars for the second consecutive season in the five-day competition, starting March 8. However, last year the event did not feature big international stars.
Naveed will be the second UAE player to play in a world-class T20 competition following Chirag Suri’s purchase by Gujarat Lions in the Indian Premier League on Monday.
And, just like Suri, Naveed can look forward to meeting the likes of World Twenty20 winning captain Darren Sammy, South African off-spinner Johan Botha and New Zealand spinner James Franklin, who will be among his team-mates.
And with Shahid Afridi, Tymal Mills, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Jesse Ryder all set to feature, Naveed says he cannot wait to take to the field.
“I am extremely delighted to be playing in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz next month,” said the UBL player.
“I really enjoyed playing last year as it was a new challenge for me and overall the experience was wonderful. I really cannot wait to play again because this competition has already attracted some big names.”
While he said it will be a learning experience, he just wants to prove his worth and show why he’s highly regarded in the UAE national set-up by doing something that he does best – taking wickets.
“Obviously, it’s going to be a tough tournament but my targets are to be as consistent as I can whether that’s on the training pitch or during matches. Every ball I bowl, I will go out there and give my best.
“That’s all I can do. It will be a great opportunity for me to learn from some of the great superstars around the world and it’s going to be hard to get wickets.
“Hopefully, my experience from last year will also help me play well in the conditions.”
Naveed went unsold in this year’s Pakistan Super League but he hopes this opportunity could be just the start of playing in elite competitions.
“I feel it’s a great platform for me to show my skills and announce myself around the world. Hopefully this can be the start of raising my profile and playing in some of the biggest competitions around the world like the PSL.”
One man who is thrilled with the news is interim AUE head coach Dougie Brown.
The former Warwickshire coach has only been in charge of the national team since the start of the month and is confident Naveed will impress. “I’m absolutely delighted,” he said. “I’ve got no doubt that Naveed can do really well. He’s got some pace and skills. He hits the ball very hard as a batter and I’m sure his bowling skills and pace and experience will see him put in some decent performances.”
He hopes more of his players can follow in the footsteps of Suri and Naveed.
“One of the challenges I’ve set the guys is that there are many T20 competitions around the world. There is no reason at all why any other players should not be featuring in these T20 competitions,” he said. “My challenge to the rest of the group is that I want more of them to be competing and it’s up to them to show what they need to do to play in these competitions.”