Aaron Finch finds form but Australia lose T20 World Cup warm-up to India

Australia and India finished off their T20 World Cup preparations in a warm-up match at an empty Gabba ground in Brisbane, won by India by six runs in a contest that lacked much intensity until the frantic final stages. Australia looked set to win when Aaron Finch was chasing India’s 186-7, needing 16 runs required from 12 balls. But the captain’s dismissal for 76 presaged a passage of play that saw Australian wickets fall from each of the final four balls of the match, Australia finishing all out for 180.

The World Cup hosts won the toss and chose to bowl, picking Mitchell Starc and Patrick Cummins but leaving out Josh Hazlewood from the pace trio that will be first choice through the tournament proper. That gave Kane Richardson a final chance to press his case, using his changes of pace and length to finish with an innings-high 4-30. Ashton Agar played as the main spinner instead of Adam Zampa, but fared less impressively with 1-36.

With no crowd to buoy the occasion, players moved diffidently, spoke quietly, and bowlers delivered a slew of wides while attempting variations. India’s opener KL Rahul was one of the few at full throttle, immediately taking on all three frontline fast bowlers before a 20-run over from Marcus Stoinis. Especially severe on anything short enough to pull, Rahul raised a half century from 27 balls while his opening partner Rohit Sharma had one run from five.

When Rohit joined the party with a couple of big blows, India had 75 from the first seven overs and could have blazed well past 200. But the introduction of spin slowed the charge, with Glenn Maxwell having Rahul caught by Ashton Agar at deep midwicket for 57, before Maxwell returned the favour to give Agar the wicket of Rohit for 15.

From then it was dash and depart for the Indian bats, with Virat Kohli hooking Starc to deep backward square for 19, before Richardson had Hardik Pandya bunting a slower ball to short third for 2, and Dinesh Karthik swatting to Maxwell in the deep for 20. Suryakumar Yadav was the one to bat through, using his array of classy shots to make an even 50 before miscuing a Richardson full toss in the 20th over to give a return catch. Richardson followed up by having Ravichandran Ashwin caught on the fence one ball after being lifted over deep third for a clever six.

Mitchell Marsh got an opportunity at the top of the order for Australia, with David Warner still resting after his recent head knock. The big all-rounder kept things simple and swung hard, with big edges flying to the fence and over it before starting to find the middle of the bat. Finch chimed in, the pair raising a 50 partnership in less than five overs, before Marsh chopped Bhuvneshwar Kumar onto his stumps for 35 from 18 balls.

Steve Smith hit one huge six before being bowled by leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, but that brought Finch together with Maxwell to turbocharge the innings. Maxwell had one alarming moment when he was struck near the eye by a top edge from his signature switch hit, the batter not wearing a helmet against spin. With the protective gear applied though, he immediately followed up with a couple of boundaries.

But Maxwell edged a cutter from Bhuvneshwar for 23, Marcus Stoinis was caught in the deep, and Finch was the decisive loss when Harshal Patel’s slower ball wobbled underneath his bat to hit the stumps. Big hitter Tim David was run out next ball, leaving Australia needing 11 from the final over.

Mohammed Shami had not bowled all day, having missed Indian T20 duty with injury for a year. But he was called upon for the final over and delivered, having Cummins caught at midwicket before bowling Inglis and Richardson, his wickets only interrupted by the run out of Agar. India will take bragging rights, but Australia will take plenty of heart with their captain back among the runs ahead of their tournament opener against New Zealand on Saturday.