KL Rahul, Kuldeep Yadav shine as India beats Australia to draw level

KL Rahul's contributions with the bat and behind the stumps coupled with Kuldeep Yadav's timely strikes saw an all-round India beat Australia by 36 runs in Rajkot.

India beat Australia by 36 runs to level the three-match ODI series 1-1.   -  VIJAY SONEJI

Fifty-over cricket, unlike Twenty20 cricket where a whirlwind knock or a sensational spell can dictate the outcome, requires individuals to chip in with vital contributions for a team to succeed. India couldn’t have asked for a better occasion than Friday’s must-win encounter for a cohesive effort against Australia.

Shikhar Dhawan laid the foundation for a big total riding on vital partnerships with Rohit Sharma and captain Virat Kohli, who returned to his customary No. 3 position. K.L. Rahul, batting at an unaccustomed No. 5 slot, then ensured India finished on a high, tallying 340 for six on the flatbed at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium.

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Manish Pandey timed his jump to perfection and plucked the ball out of thin air to dismiss the dangerous David Warner and put Australia under pressure. Spin twins Ravindra Jadeja, the hometown hero, and Kuldeep Yadav then struck vital blows in the middle overs to ensure Steve Smith didn’t run away with the game. The pace trio then came to the party as India sealed a 36-run win.

Smith and leggie Adam Zampa - who continued to be on the right side of a mini-battle versus Kohli - lacked support in their respective departments. It resulted in their brilliance not converting into a 2-0 result, thus keeping the series alive heading into the decider at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru over the weekend.

Steve Smith led Australia's riposte.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Solid start

After being inserted in, Rohit and Dhawan gave India the much-needed start but Rohit’s attempted sweep resulted in being trapped in front early in Zampa’s spell. While Dhawan - whose lofted straight driver over the bowler’s head just before holing out in the deep four runs shy of a deserving hundred was one of the highlights of the day - departed in the middle, Shreyas Iyer played a false stroke that resulted in him being bowled after being tied down by Zampa.

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When Kohli - brilliantly caught on the edge of the boundary, thanks to a relay catch by Ashton Agar and Mitchell Starc off Zampa - and Manish Pandey, who came in for the injured Rishabh Pant, were dismissed in quick succession, at 280 for five in the 45th over, India was in danger of falling short of a formidable total for the second time in succession.

Rahul makes merry

KL Rahul's powerhitting at the death powered India to an eventually match-winning total.   -  BCCI

 

However, Rahul came to the fore. Of the 60 runs India scored in the last six overs, Rahul tonked 38 runs off 18 balls, including an all-out attack on Starc. The knock put Australia on the backfoot. Rahul then impressed with his glovework to see captain Aaron Finch’s back, although the replays were far from being conclusive.

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Smith and Marnus Labuschagne's 96-run partnership for the third wicket,  with an asking rate on the up, kept the visitor in the hunt but Jadeja struck towards the end of his spell to entice Labuschagne into an error.

When Kuldeep struck twice in his penultimate over, tempting Alex Carey into playing against the turn with a clever change of field, and hurrying up Smith on 98, the fate of the game was all but sealed.

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