Cricket

Kohli, Vijay Shankar double India's series lead


AUSTRALIA TOUR OF INDIA, 2019

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Virat Kohli scored his 40th ODI century. © Getty

Twenty-one runs remaining, three overs and two wickets in hand. Marcus Stoinis, who had faced all the six deliveries of the 48th over, managed to score only one run. And yet, Australia seemed the happier side by the end of it. Jasprit Bumrah, who had finished his spell with figures of 2 for 29 with that over, looked disappointed. In such a contest where the fortunes turned over and over again, from one side to another, India held their nerves to clinch a thriller in Nagpur by eight runs and go two-up in the series.

On a slow wicket, with cracks abundant, it was never going to be a high-scorer. If not for Virat Kohli, who was batting in a zone of his own – one that slates him as the finest in modern day limited overs cricket – and Vijay Shankar’s handy cameo, India would have ended significantly south of the 250 they did manage as the rest of the Indian batting line up struggled after being put to bat first.

Apart from Ashton Turner making way for Shaun Marsh’s return, Australia had beefed up their spin department by including Nathan Lyon in place of Jason Behrendorff. India had come unchanged.

The openers – Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan – much like it has been this year, failed to provide a good start. Both fell early and Ambati Rayudu was troubled by the lack of pace before getting trapped legbefore, leaving India reduced at 75 for 3 in 17 overs. Vijay Shankar, promoted to No 5, was the only partner able to match Kohli’s batting application on Tuesday.

The duo stitched an 81-run stand off only 71 balls to not only revive India’s innings but also completely turn the initiative in their favour. Vijay Shankar smashed his way to a 41-ball 46, courtesy five boundaries and a six before he was run out while backing too far to a Kohli straight drive, falling in the 40s for a second consecutive innings.

His fall paved way for the first of the two collapses of the Indian innings. Four overs later, Adam Zampa struck twice off two deliveries to send back Kedar Jadhav and MS Dhoni, reducing India from 156 for 3 to 171 for 6. All along, Kohli remained largely dominant against the Australian bowlers.

He found a scratchy but effective company of Ravindra Jadeja, who hung along with him for a 74-ball stand to take India past the 200-run mark. It wasn’t the most fluent of innings by the southpaw but proved mighty effective for India’s cause as Kohli kept scoring at a good rate from the other end. And soon after Jadeja’s innings ended in the 46th over, India suffered their second collapse.

Kohli marched along to another fine century – 40th in ODIs – but gave away his wicket by playing a lazy pull to deep mid wicket. Pat Cummins bagged four wickets as India were bundled out for 250, a competitive total on a turner.

However, if India thought they were going to have tit easy defending on a deteriorating wicket, they were far from it. Australian openers Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja cashed in on the wayward lines of the bowlers and dominated the first 15 overs of play – stitching a 87-ball 83-run stand for the opening wicket. However, much like it has happened for India, fortunes turn with the arrival of wrist spin.

Kuldeep Yadav, who was welcomed with a six, trapped Finch LBW to break the partnership. Kedar Jadhav and Jadeja joined in as well to bring down the visitors to 132 for 4. Kuldeep troubled the batsmen with his drift and turn while Jadhav cramped them with his angles and awkwardly low bounce. The scoring rate dropped significantly but Peter Handscomb held on.

One of their better players of spin, he unleashed the sweeps and the reverse sweeps rather generously. There were only four boundaries in his 59-ball knock of 48 but he kept pushing Australia’s chase. His fine innings promised much more but it was cut short by a superb direct hit by Ravindra Jadeja from backward point.

Stoinis and Alex Carey had some early struggle against the Indian spinners but they made up for it by a brief period of assault on Kuldeep and Jadhav to again put India on the backfoot. Kuldeep eventually had the better of Carey, when the ‘keeper-batsman under-edged a slog sweep on to his stumps. However, by then India had lost their firm grip on the game.

In all of this, the 46th over bowled by Bumrah proved to be another turning point. Having not proved as effective till that point in the match, India’s lead pacer struck twice to dismiss Nathan Coulter-Nile and Cummins and leave the entire mantle of chasing down the target on Stoinis.

Knowing fully that India had to bowl one over of Vijay Shankar or Kedar Jadhav in the last four, Stoinis pushed the chase deep. So did India. Neither blinked and eventually brought down the equation to 11 runs of the final over. Vijay Shankar, who had bowled only one over till then in the match and conceded 13, got the first ball to slant in and trap Stonis plumb in front of the wicket. Stoinis took a review but in vain. Two balls later, he yorked and bowled Adam Zampa to end Australia’s chase.

Brief Scores: India 250 in 48.2 overs (Virat Kohli 116, Vijay Shankar 46; Pat Cummins 4-29, Adam Zampa 2-62) beat Australia 242 in 49.3 overs (Marcus Stoinis 52, Peter Handscomb 48; Kuldeep Yadav 3-54, Vijay Shankar 2-15) by 8 runs

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