The pitch at the Barsapara stadium
The surface in Guwahati had a deep-brown look that suggested a lot of moisture. There was also an even covering of grass, which allowed the ball to grip the pitch and move laterally. The toss was critical and Australia did the right thing by choosing to field, after which Jason Behrendorff proved the value of a left-arm seamer. His natural angle - moving away from the right-hand batsman - accounted for Manish Pandey, and deliveries that came in got Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Behrendorff reaped rewards for his fuller length.
India's shot selection
In the first ODI, Pandey had fallen for a duck, nicking a full ball from Nathan Coulter-Nile. In Guwahati, Pandey stayed deep in the crease and was fortunate that Coulter-Nile rarely pitched full. Behrendorff, however, did pitch full and Pandey's front foot went down the pitch instead of towards the ball. He reached out for it with his hands and edged behind. Shikhar Dhawan had spent all but one ball in the first three overs at the non-striker's end, giving him ample time to assess the conditions. So the shot he played to fall to Behrendorff - an attempted chip over the infield - was careless.
The moisture in the pitch ensured the ball gripped and turned for the legspinner Adam Zampa. MS Dhoni tried to counter this threat by stepping out: in the over that he was eventually dismissed, Dhoni stepped out to Zampa five times. The idea was to force the bowler to shorten the length, which would allow Dhoni the freedom to stay in the crease and score off the back foot. It was interesting that Dhoni chose to step out - sometimes only to defend - to five consecutive balls without waiting on the back foot even once.
India have been picking seven batsmen in recent limited-overs games, the idea being to have extra firepower to set above-par totals or chase huge targets. It is also insurance against a collapse. The strategy hasn't always worked in ODIs with scores of 300, and even in Guwahati having Hardik Pandya at No. 7 did not prevent India from being dismissed in 20 overs. Playing the extra batsman also leaves you a bowler short, leaving no insurance for a bowler having a bad day. With the kind of batsmen India have, playing five proper bowlers is a tactic worth trying.
The Warner-Finch dismissals & Henriques' promotion
Most of the runs scored on this pitch were off the back foot and that led to Australia's openers being a little too eager. David Warner and Aaron Finch went back to balls that weren't short enough and paid the price. Australia were smart to promote Moises Henriques to no. 3, ahead of Glenn Maxwell. The conditions demanded a more technically sound batsman.
India's bowling plans
Travis Head and Henriques went after the left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav and medium-pacer Hardik Pandya. Every time Kuldeep pitched full, which is his strength, both batsmen went really hard at it. He was forced to bowl shorter and, on a slow Guwahati pitch, the ball sat up to be hit. The experience should encourage Kuldeep to expand his repertoire. From time to time, the situation will arise where he needs to bowl quicker and with control.
It was interesting that Kohli did not bowl Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Jasprit Bumrah in the middle overs despite Kuldeep going for plenty. Yes, it would have meant not having their overs at the end, but the only way to fight back was to break the Henriques-Head stand and take more wickets. As it turned out, with Australia winning in the 16th over, neither Bumrah nor Bhuvneshwar bowled their full quota.