Centurion Rohit, Kohli guide India to series win over Australia

Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli helped India wrap the series 2-1 with a comfortable seven-wicket victory in the decisive third ODI against Australia.

Rohit Sharma’s century laid the foundation for India's chase against Australia.   -  PTI

When Rohit Sharma walked back clutching his shoulder after landing awkwardly while fielding on the boundary line during the second ODI in Rajkot, his availability for the decider at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru looked in doubt. On Sunday, he nullified all such apprehensions and announced his fitness by flexing his arms for six mighty sixes and eight boundaries for a stroke-filled 119. Captain Virat Kohli complemented the opener with a masterful 89 but left the last-mile job to Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey. The duo safely steered India to a seven-wicket victory and clinch the ODI series 2-1. 

Shreyas hit a quickfire 48 to help India complete the chase in 47.2 overs as Steve Smith’s 131-run innings – his first ODI century in three years – proved to be inadequate. 

Chasing 287, K. L. Rahul, India’s crisis manager for the series, opened the batting with Rohit Sharma after Shikhar Dhawan injured his shoulder in a similar roll-and pick-up fielding routine that forced Rohit out in the previous game. Dhawan was taken for an x-ray and was unavailable to bat.

Enjoying tremendous home crowd support, Rahul donned the opener’s role with Rohit after finishing his wicketkeeping duty in the first innings. When a certain section of the crowd began chanting ‘Dhoni Dhoni’ after a miss behind the stumps, another section countered with a louder cheer for him. He gave the ‘Hitman’ company for 69 runs before Ashton Agar dismissed him lbw. His patient 19-run knock was a perfect balance for Rohit Sharma’s ballistic assaults upfront as India began the chase strongly.

With Virat Kohli for company, Rohit Sharma chipped away at the target with measured hitting as India looked set to complete a panic-free chase when the opener offered a skier to Starc at long-on. In the process of hitting his 29th ODI century, Rohit became the third fastest to cross 9000 runs in the 50-over format. The duo combined for a 137-run partnership that helped  India immensely in a panic-free chase.

Electing to bat first, Australia showed no urgency in accumulating runs, dispatching the odd ball for boundary and rotating the strike for singles. It helped that India’s opening bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami were in a generous mood and contributed seven wide balls in the first five overs, with one of them cruising to the boundary ropes. For the record, Bumrah bowled four wide balls in his first four-over spell and gifted eight extras. The batsmen, meanwhile, could manage to score only six.

In a complete mix-up between Aaron Finch and Steve Smith, the opener sprinted for a run after nudging the ball to the third man area only to see a reluctant Smith staying anchored at the non-striker’s end. The mix-up gave India enough time to make two passes and still comfortably run out Finch. Jadeja, going for the non-striker’s end, missed the stumps. Shreyas Iyer collected it at short midwicket to throw it to Shami who was comfortably placed to pick the ball and casually flick the bails off. Aaron Finch was still a mile away from the crease and had to make the long walk back, cursing under his breath.

Steve Smith, whose reluctance resulted in Finch’s wicket, almost repeated the same with Marnus Labuschagne, the other in-form batsman. Thankfully for Labuschagne, Kuldeep Yadav failed to collect the ball in time for a run-out. The duo then chugged along for yet another 100-run partnership, fourth in the last 10 innings they have batted together and seventh 50-plus contribution.

100

Virat Kohli takes a bow after taking the catch to dismiss Marnus Labuschagne.   -  G.P.Sampath Kumar

 

A brilliant diving catch from Kohli ended Labuschagne’s innings and the fledgeling partnership. Diving low to the right, Kohli clasped the ball close to the ground. Pleased with his brilliance, he acknowledged the cheers by taking a bow. Starc, the next batsman in, offered a simple catch to substitute Chahal at the mid-wicket boundary to make it two wickets in an over for Jadeja.

By putting a price on his wicket and batting risk-free (at least), Steve Smith helped himself to his first century in exactly three years, taking 117 balls to achieve the mark. His previous century came at Perth against Pakistan on January 19, 2017, and had fallen short by two runs in the previous match in Rajkot.

There were no extravagant shots until the 40th over from the run minting machine. A Dhoni-esque swish for a six over deep-square in the 46th over was the only audacious shot that came off his bat. The next time he tried to go for the maximum in the same area, a diving, tumbling Shreyas safely latched on to the ball to end his laborious innings at 131 (off 132 balls). Shami then castled Pat Cummins and Adam Zampa to finish with four for 63 and curtail Australia to what turned out to be a below-par total of 286/9.

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