Dhawan century guides India to highest World Cup score against Australia

Shikhar Dhawan's 109-ball 117 formed the bedrock for India's total of 352 for five after Virat Kohli won the toss and chose to bat first.

Shikhar Dhawan's 109-ball 117 provided the launchpad for India's 352 for five batting first.   -  AP

After 48 hours of damp skies and the odd bone-rattling cold breeze, Sunday dawned bright and sunny at London. Gradually a sea of blue descended upon the Oval. Wearing the team jersey, the Indian fans thronged the venue and indulged in drum-beats, bhangra and incessant selfies. There was a rush around the roads and a wrongly parked car was gently lifted into a police truck.

Out in the middle, Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat in a key ICC World Cup game against Australia. And over the next three and a half hours, that decision found ample validation through the blades of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, the skipper himself and Hardik Pandya. With Dhawan’s 117 (109b, 16x4) top-lining the batting effort, India posted 352 for five in 50 overs at the lunch break.

Initially openers Rohit and Dhawan practised watchful-consolidation. They were wary against Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc and had their lucky moments. Dhawan streaked one through vacant third slip while Rohit uppishly flicked Starc and watched Nathan Coulter-Nile drop a tough chance at square-leg.

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On two then, Rohit just focused on the task of cementing his team’s base. Dhawan, meanwhile, found his release through a cover-driven four off Cummins. And when Coulter-Nile was introduced into the attack, the seamer offered width and a grateful Dhawan struck three fours. There was a brief moment of discomfort for the southpaw when he got struck on his thumb by Cummins and India moved to 41 for no loss in 10 overs.

Rohit finally broke his shackles once leg-spinner Adam Zampa was pressed into service. A loose delivery was promptly slog-swept, and the first-wicket pair cut loose. Rohit guided Glenn Maxwell past third-man and hooked Coulter-Nile for six; Dhawan slashed and upper-cut and India reached 100 in 19 overs.

 

Just as the Aussies seemed resigned to their leather-hunt, Rohit got dismissed. Trying to dab one behind the wicket, the batsman got cramped as Coulter-Nile’s delivery darted in close and the resultant edge found a diving wicket-keeper Alex Carey. By then, Dhawan and Rohit had added 127 in 22.3 overs and a huge roar greeted Kohli.

Aaron Finch’s men tried to follow a parched-earth policy with Kohli, pitching it a bit wide after packing the off-side. The Indian captain, though, stole his singles and when Zampa came on, Dhawan drove and lofted with aplomb. Kohli too could not be denied and he lashed at Cummins. And soon enough, Dhawan reached his inevitable hundred, albeit with some confusion.

Non-striker Kohli backed up too far but seemingly regained the crease when a throw disturbed the stumps, and as the ball sailed away, a single was stolen. Replays showed that Kohli was home and finally Dhawan raised his bat. The Delhi-duo toyed with the bowlers, picked their spots and when Dhawan drilled one past Starc, there was disdain rippling through that stroke.

Keen to switch gears, Dhawan holed out to the square-leg fence as Starc finally got a wicket. The 93-run second-wicket partnership between Dhawan and Kohli, had laid the foundation for the final assault and promptly the team-management promoted Pandya to the number four slot. What followed was mayhem as Pandya and Kohli pressed the accelerator and the latter, dropped on 41 by Carey off Coulter-Nile, went past his fifty.

Pandya knelt low and hoisted a six off Maxwell, and Kohli stood upright and thumped Cummins. Kohli and Pandya added 81-runs for the third-wicket off just 53 deliveries and even after the latter departed, the runs came thick and fast. M.S. Dhoni too dished out a cameo and Australia was left staring at an arduous chase.      
 

The scores

India: Rohit Sharma c Carey b Coulter-Nile 57 (70b, 3x4, 1x6), Shikhar Dhawan c (sub) Lyon b Starc 117 (109b, 16x4), Virat Kohli c Cummins b Stoinis 82 (77b, 4x4, 2x6), Hardik Pandya c Finch b Cummins 48 (27b, 4x4, 3x6), M.S. Dhoni c & b Stoinis 27 (14b, 3x4, 1x6), K.L. Rahul (not out) 11 (3b, 1x4, 1x6), Kedar Jadhav (not out) 0 (0b). Extras (lb-3, w-7): 10; Total (for five wkts., in 50 overs): 352.

Fall of wickets: 1-127 (Rohit, 22.3), 2-220 (Dhawan, 36.6), 3-301 (Pandya, 45.5), 4-338 (Dhoni, 49.1).

Australia bowling: Pat Cummins 10-0-55-1,  Mitchell Starc 10-0-74-1, Nathan Coulter-Nile 10-1-63-1, Glenn Maxwell 7-0-45-0, Adam Zampa 6-0-50-0, Marcus Stoinis 7-0-62-2.