Virat Kohli's 40th ODI ton guides India to 250



Virat Kohli scored his 40th ODI century in Nagpur. © Getty

Virat Kohli can put his 40th ODI century, one notched up in Nagpur on Tuesday, among his finest in 50-over cricket and it would be as worthy as any. It might have come in familiar conditions, devoid of external pressures and against an unexceptional bowling attack. But when stacked alongside how the other batsmen around him, barring Vijay Shankar, struggled to score freely on the slow track, it testifies for his excellent application on a testing pitch, scoring patiently yet at a good rate: 116 off 120 balls in India’s 250.

“The average score here is 292 but today might be different,” were the words of Murali Karthik during the toss report, having witnessed the red soil wicket with ample cracks on offer. Not surprisingly, Australia beefed up their bowling with an additional spinner – Nathan Lyon coming in for Jason Behrendorff – while Shaun Marsh joined in, replacing Ashton Turner. India, on the other hand, came unchanged.

In what proved to be a surprising start to the contest, Aaron Finch decided to field after winning the toss, on a wicket that didn’t promise much for players against spin. India lost their openers early; Rohit Sharma slashing to the third man fielder in the first over and Shikhar Dhawan missing the line and getting trapped off a straight delivery by Glenn Maxwell.

Kohli and Ambati Rayudu hung around for a bit and tried to resurrect the Indian innings. But after a dull period of 51 balls, the latter was adjudged leg before. He took a review but in vain, leaving India reduced to 51 for 3 in 17 overs.

But then came the most entertaining period of batting, in an innings where attacking strokes were at a premium. Vijay Shankar, promoted to No 5, hit crisp and clean, unlike how the batsmen before and after him managed. He matched Kohli stroke for stroke and completely turned around the balance of the contest which was in the favour of the visitors in the first one-third of the innings.

Shankar smashed five boundaries and pulled a short delivery by Marcus Stoinis over cow corner en route his 41-ball 46. Unfortunately, for the second time in two innings, his promising knock came to an end courtesy a run out in the 40s. On the fifth ball of the 29th over, Adam Zampa managed to get his fingers to a straight drive from Kohli as the ball hit the stumps’s at the runner’s end while Shankar was short of his crease while backing up.

That dismissal proved to be a decisive point in India’s innings as the batting stuttered again. Four overs later, Zampa struck twice in two balls, dismissing Kedar Jadhav and MS Dhoni to reduce India from 156 for 3 to 171 for 6.

Kohli, nonetheless, continued to play some risk-free yet delightful strokes, and in company of a scratchy Ravindra Jadeja, revived India’s innings yet again. The southpaw only had a supporting role to play, and aided by some poor fielding and a dropped catch, he worked his to a 40-ball 21. It may have not been the most significant of individual contributions but it proved mighty effective for the team’s cause. In the course of his innings, Jadeja also became only the third Indian after Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar to register a 2000-run and 15-wicket double in ODIs.

His fall, in the 46th over, after he failed to time a hit over the top and got caught at long off triggered another collapse. India lost their last four wickets in only 15 balls, getting bundled out for 250. Kohli’s marathon knock, which included only 10 fours, ended with a mistimed pull to the deep mid wicket fielder.

Pat Cummins (4 for 29) starred with the ball, returning his fifth four-fer in ODIs. Even as India failed to play their quota of overs, they would be fully aware that they have a competitive total on the board to defend.

Brief Scores: India 250 in 48.2 overs (Virat Kohli 116, Vijay Shankar 46; Pat Cummins 4-29, Adam Zamps 2-62) vs Australia

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