Box office: Smith-Kohli show bigger than World Cup
Proving themselves to be cricket's true box office kings, Steve Smith and Virat Kohli have combined to break new ground as Fox Sports smashed the record for the most watched ODI in the history of pay television.
The fierce rivals put on a show in Sunday's second match of the series, and the 585,000 average viewers toppled the 2015 World Cup final as the highest-rating 50-over game ever and also made it the third-most watched subscription TV sports program of all time behind the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final and final.
With Kohli set to fly home after the first Test next month, Fox Sports were well positioned to be the big winners from his baby bombshell as the exclusive rights holders to the six white-ball fixtures the superstar will feature in.
The ONLY place to watch every single match of India's Tour of Australia is on Fox Cricket, available on Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your free trial now & start streaming instantly >
And that has paid immediate dividends with ratings across the first two games up 39 per cent on last year's three-game series, also against India, putting it on track to become the highest-rating ODI series in subscription television history.
"The women are the best in the world and now Australia's ODI men's team is performing better than we've seen in modern times against top-rated India and Virat Kohli - it doesn't get any better," said Fox Sports Executive Director Steve Crawley.
"Beginning the summer with the white ball has proven to be a hugely successful formula for Cricket Australia."
Game two on Sunday alone delivered a whopping 585,000 viewers as Australia secured a 51-run victory with Smith scoring his second consecutive 62-ball century - trumping the 2015 cricket World Cup final by 41,000 fans.
On Friday, 469,000 watched as Australia drew first blood following centuries to Smith and captain Aaron Finch.
Underlining the impressive numbers, it can also be revealed that Sunday's fixture was the third most-watched sports program on pay TV of all time.
Only the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final (734k) and final (649k) drew more eyeballs in the long history of sport on pay TV.
Game three takes place on Wednesday at Manuka Oval in Canberra.
In another plus for the broadcaster, the Sydney Thunder's thumping WBBL final victory over the Melbourne Stars was the highest-rating WBBL pay TV fixture of all time - with 131,000 people, up 24 per cent on last year's final, watching as Heather Knight smashed a six to deliver the Thunder a second championship.
WILL WARNER PLAY FIRST TEST?
- Ben Horne
David Warner is in extreme doubt to start the Test summer, with Will Pucovski now on the verge of a Test debut in Adelaide.
Warner limped off the SCG with what appeared a serious groin injury on Sunday night, meaning Pucovski would open with Joe Burns for the first Test should scans confirm the worst for Australia's top order destroyer.
Virat Kohli announcing he will head home after the first Test for the birth of his baby might have been a series-defining blow for India, but that could potentially be offset if Warner is also ruled out for any length of time.
With the first Test in Adelaide just 18 days away, a groin tear of any significance would almost certainly rule Warner out of at least the first Test, but he could miss up to six weeks depending on the severity - meaning his entire summer may yet be in jeopardy.
Indian star KL Rahul left little doubt over how his battling side would feel if Warner was taken out of the Australian line-up for the Tests.
"We don't know how bad his injury is but it would be nice if he gets injured for a long time," said Rahul.
"I wouldn't wish that for any cricketer but he's one of their main batsmen. If he's injured for a long time, it would be good for our team."
Warner was left writhing in agony after attempting a dive in the field early in India's chase, and he looked in serious discomfort as he limped off the field with the assistance of teammate Glenn Maxwell and team physio David Beakley.
The opener hobbled into a car a short time later and left the SCG for scans, with the results expected on Monday.
Usually a groin strain takes 1-2 weeks, and a tear 4-6 weeks. The first Test is in 18 days. Big moment if David Warner is ruled out for a large chunk of the summer. Could it be Alex Carey opening with Aaron Finch? And Will Pucovski with Joe Burns? #AUSvsIND— Sam Landsberger 🗯 (@SamLandsberger) November 29, 2020
Maxwell said he hadn't received an update on his teammate's health, but admitted things didn't look good from where he stood.
"I haven't seen or heard anything. Hopefully the scan comes back and it's OK. It didn't look good," said Maxwell.
"I think (he was in a lot of pain). He didn't really want me to carry him off. It didn't help he's a lot shorter than me and he couldn't reach up!
"It seemed like he was in a bit of pain. Hopefully scans come back and it's not too bad and he can rest up and get himself right. "
India steamrolled Australia two summers ago when Warner and Steve Smith were serving their ball-tampering ban, and although Smith is firing on the back of two centuries to start the ODI campaign, losing the game's most damaging opener would be enough to change the tone of the entire Test series.
Matthew Wade could be in line to replace Warner at the top of the order for the remainder of the white ball series, but it's the Test matches which Australian selectors would have been sweating over on Sunday night.
The much anticipated bat-off between Burns and Pucovski that was slated for next weekend when Australia A take the field against India A at Drummoyne Oval, may have now taken on a much more friendly complexion as a chance for a potentially new-look Australian opening pairing to find their combination.
Australian selectors had strongly intimated that the incumbent Burns might have held out the in-form Pucovski in a major selection shock - but that mystery may never be explained if both are needed to pad up in Adelaide.
As much as the country would get behind the fairytale of a Pucovski debut, Warner is a matchwinning figure almost impossible to replace.
At Adelaide Oval last summer he smashed an incredible triple century which few in world cricket could have mustered.
Losing him from the top of the order would remove a lot of Australia's home ground swagger and India would breathe a sigh of relief knowing a player with the ability to take a game away from them in a session would be safely in the stands.
Fox Cricket analyst Brett Lee feared the worst in commentary, even suggesting the groin muscle might have been torn off the bone, but as much as it's all speculation at this point, the pain etched on Warner's face appeared telling.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR PRODIGY GREEN?
All-round prodigy Cameron Green is set to be released from Australia's white ball squad later this week and allowed to focus all his energy on pushing for a Test debut.
Green is expected to be parachuted into the Australia A side that will take on India A in a first-class match at Drummoyne Oval next Saturday, rather than staying around for the Twenty20 internationals.
He is still set to travel with the white ball squad to Canberra ahead of Wednesday's final ODI, but will return to Sydney after to join up with the Australia A side to be skippered by Test captain Tim Paine in a three-day game.
There was some shock expressed on Sunday when selectors opted for Moises Henriques as Marcus Stoinis' injury replacement in the second ODI, rather than using it as a chance to blood 21-year-old Green for his first taste of international cricket.
Fox Cricket expert Adam Gilchrist said it would have been the "perfect time" to inject the young star into the limited overs set-up.
However, ODI captain Aaron Finch said on Sunday that Green needs more bowling overs under his belt before being considered for international cricket.
"Cam has been bowling a little bit but hasn't gone to that next level in the amount of overs he has bowled just yet," said Finch.
Green would appear to be at long odds to play the first Test of the summer against India on December 17 in Adelaide with Travis Head and Matthew Wade entrenched as middle-order stars.
However, two Australia A matches against the Indians in the meantime gives Green the chance to properly build his bowling levels up to a point where coach Justin Langer and selectors might be comfortable to unleash him later in the Test summer at the MCG or SCG.
Green's limited overs record isn't anything flash at this point, so there may also be a feeling that in the lead-up to potentially breaking into the Test team he's better left out of the white ball formats and kept on a red ball diet which he has thrived on.
The two-metre talent suffered back stress fracture issues last summer and only returned to bowling midway through this year.
Australia's coaches have been working closely with Western Australia's coaching staff to enjoy Green isn't pushed too far before his body is ready.
Green bowled a select amount of overs in two Sheffield Shield matches for Western Australia last month and now has the chance for two more first-class hit-outs before the Test summer.
It's now expected he will play both the Drummoyne Oval Australia A match starting next Saturday, and then the pink ball match against a full-strength Indian outfit at the SCG starting on December 11.
Originally published as Box office: Smith-Kohli show bigger than World Cup