A zestful, reinvigorated Indian team defeated Australia by 27 runs to seal the KFC T20 Series at the MCG here on Friday. After a pair of half centuries from Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma had led the visitor to 184, its spin bowlers throttled Australia midway through the run chase. India's fielding, painful for its captain to behold at the same venue a fortnight ago, was energetic and sharp here, even if a catch was put down.
Yuvraj Singh's contribution was vital to the outcome, his dismissal of Glenn Maxwell a major blow to Australian hopes. India holds an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series - its first triumph in a bilateral series in Australia -- with the third game to be played in Sydney on Sunday.
With a huge target to scale down, Aaron Finch came out swinging as the home team made great haste at the beginning, speeding to 89 without loss in nine overs. Ashish Nehra took a beating, going for 16 runs in his second over. Jasprit Bumrah was not spared either, and was taken for 31 from his first three overs. All Shaun Marsh had to do was stay off strike as Finch went after the bowling. R. Ashwin's first ball was slog-swept for six before Ravindra Jadeja was given similar treatment. It, therefore, felt like a colossal error when Finch was let off on 64, Shikhar Dhawan dropping a sitter on the mid-wicket boundary off Ashwin. On the next (legal) ball, however, Marsh was caught at long-on, triggering a remarkable turnaround.
Hardik Pandya was brought on and he got rid of Chris Lynn with a cutter. In the over that followed, Yuvraj - introduced to boisterous cheers - removed Maxwell, on whom much hinged, for one. Maxwell stepped out of the crease and was stumped by Dhoni, the wicket-keeper's hands level with the wicket even before the ball had arrived.
3 for 7
In the space of 12 balls, Australia had lost three for seven. The innings never recovered. Shane Watson was out caught and bowled, Jadeja holding a splendid return catch. Finch was Australia's last hope and when he was run out, chasing a tight single with an injured hamstring, the game was as good as won. In all, the home side lost eight for 63 in the last 10.2 overs.
After India was put in to bat on a cloudy afternoon, Rohit Sharma struggled against the swinging ball, needing 10 deliveries to score his first run. Once the first boundary was struck, though, the floodgates opened. John Hastings was taken for 17 runs in the fourth over, with Shikhar Dhawan on one occasion lashing him ten rows into the stands beyond deep mid-wicket.
Fifteen runs came off James Faulkner's over and India was sprinting along. Nathan Lyon, handed his T20 debut here, made that decision seem a terrible error. He was taken for 15, with Rohit dispatching a free-hit over the ropes.
The openers knit a partnership of 97 runs, one broken when Dhawan was caught at backward point off a reverse-sweep. It signaled the arrival of Virat Kohli, who was given a thunderous welcome here. As he has been doing this Australian summer, Kohli batted as if in a trance, hitting almost everything out of the middle. He manipulated the field well, hammering the ball over the infield to find the boundary. He struck only one six (he didn't need to attempt any more, the rate at which he was scoring), Scott Boland drilled over long-off fiercely.
Kohli finished unbeaten on 59 (33b), his 11th T20 fifty in 32 matches. Rohit, meanwhile, was run out for 60, having set off for a second run that Kohli clearly refused. Earlier in his innings, Rohit was struck on the right hand by a lifter from Andrew Tye. The batsman did not take the field thereafter, suffering from a sore thumb. From 134 for one in 15 overs, India may have hoped to breach 200, but Australia's bowlers managed something of a recovery. That would matter little in the final analysis, though.
Khwaja replaces Finch
Usman Khawaja has replaced Aaron Finch in the Australia squad for the third and final game of the KFC T20I Series with India. Finch injured his left hamstring while batting in the second T20I in Melbourne on Friday.