WITH Australia needing 11 runs off the last six balls, the Indian team was undecided over whom to hand over the all-important 50th over. All the frontline bowlers had completed their ten-over quotas bringing India back into the game. They had a choice between Kedar Jadhav, whose spell read 8-0-33-1 and Vijay Shankar, who had conceded 13 in his only over.
It was Shankar who was handed the ball. Marcus Stoinis had, till then, kept Australian hopes alive with his half-century and it needed just one big hit to take the visitors close to victory. Stoinis tried to hit big but the ball rapped his pads, and he was adjudged leg-before. The Australian all-rounder took the review but it returned an ‘umpire’s call’ verdict and the Indians breathed a sigh of relief.
Adam Zampa would manage to get two off the next ball, but was bowled off the third delivery of the over by Shankar as the rookie did his World Cup credentials no harm while India beat Australia by eight runs in a tense game. It was the bowlers who ensured India secured their second consecutive win in the five-match series.
Going into the climax, Australia had four wickets in hand and needed 29 off 30 balls when Jasprit Bumrah was brought back into the attack in the 46th over. The speedster snared the wickets of Nathan Coulter-Nile and Pat Cummins, and conceded just one run to see Australia needing 28 off 24. The pressure kept mounting and the onus was on Stoinis, who till then had kept his nerve. It seemed like Australia wanted to push the game to the last over. Stoinis managed one four off Mohammed Shami and with eight runs in the 47th over, Australia needed 21 off 18 balls.
Bumrah once again came up with a magical over as Stoinis was pinned to the strike which meant Nathan Lyon didn’t get a ball to face. Stoinis would take a single off the last ball and in Shami’s penultimate over, Australia collected nine to see the game heading to a last-over finish.
Earlier, it was Indian captain Virat Kohli who’d stood tall amidst the ruins of the rest of the batting line-up. Kohli’s ability to adapt and survive, and come up with runs, makes him a genius. Not only because he was in his zone – which is pretty often – but Kohli’s hand-eye co-ordination looks starkly different from others.
Tendulkar in sight
There is no doubt Kohli is on his way to becoming the next global legend. On Tuesday, he struck his 40th ODI hundred inching closer to Tendulkar’s mark of 49. It wasn’t as if the Australians didn’t have a plan in place. They had a gully, a slip and a packed off-side, with bowlers trying to find the line, moving away from his body.
They were baiting Kohli to drive, hoping that somehow those feet delay their movement and he would edge one behind. Cummins came close when the delivery swung away and Kohli tried to drive, the ball flying through the gully region. It was the only time the Australians sniffed any success against the run machine. They already had Rohit Sharma in the first over of the day as the opener played an upper cut that found Zampa at third man.
However, it was the two early boundaries from Kohli that gave the indication of him settling into his zone. A straight drive followed by a last-moment use of his wrists to guide the ball to mid-wicket for a four off Coulter-Nile set the tone.
On a pitch which was slow and low, the challenge was to rotate strike. It was Shankar who stole the show, even outshining Kohli a tad with his pretty strokeplay. Zampa, who had claimed Kohli last game, tried hard to trap the Indian captain again. Kohli shrugged him off with two fours.
Shankar, at the other end, was enjoying himself, picking boundaries off Coulter-Nile and Lyon and then a four and a six to unsettle Marcus Stoinis. The duo revived India’s sinking ship threatening Australian with a big partnership.
Just when things looked rosy with the partnership cruising, Shankar was run out as Kohli drove straight finding Zampa’s fingers before the ball hit the stumps. Shankar tried to find the crease but fell well short.
Australians looked to be pulling the game back, as they sent back Kedar Jadhav and MS Dhoni (for a golden duck) in the 33rd over. But Kohli kept his nerve, rotating strike. He pushed hard for singles and reached another his century with a boundary, once again proving why he is the best.
Looking to accelerate the scoring, he would find a man at deep square leg after ensuring India reached 250. India lost the last three wickets for two runs but posted a decent total, courtesy their captain’s gritty knock.
India’s domestic run machine Wasim Jaffer had summed up the odds against Kohli pithily a few days ago. “Tomorrow if Virat Kohli comes to play, what plans will you have for him?” he mused. “You can plan only for the first 15-20 balls. After that, he will get out only if he makes some mistake.” Jaffer was spot on – Australia tried in the first initial overs, but had no plans thereafter.