Kohli shines bright in rain-hit series

Virat Kohli was declared the man of the match in Visakhapatnam and later the man of the series.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

The Delhi youngster's knock proved to be a match-winning one as India eased past Australia's imposing total in the second limited overs international in Visakhapatnam. K. C. Vijaya Kumar reports.

It was a series that forced cricket reporters to peer hard at weather forecasts rather than the mandatory enquiries about the pitch and team composition. India versus Australia is indeed the top-draw at the cricket box-office. The Test series produced engrossing contests and M. S. Dhoni's men blanked the visitor 2-0, so the subsequent ODI series of three-matches had the unenviable challenge of producing equally edge-of-the-seat thrillers.

Sadly it never happened as the south-west monsoon enjoyed a late surge and dampened the skies across Kochi (Oct. 17) and Margao (Oct. 24) and that effectively meant that the opening match and the final contest were thrown into the abandoned bin. That in retrospect left the series to entirely hinge on the second match in Visakhapatnam (Oct. 20), where the cumulus clouds thankfully went on a go-slow mode.

The sun was out in all its glory over the Andhra coast once the low-pressure storm moved closer to Orissa. So a game was indeed on at the Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA VDCA and it laid the platform for a clutch of batsmen to sparkle and tide past their respective batting challenges.

Michael Clarke was battling poor form and harsher critics. Michael Hussey had to click with the bat after an indifferent run in the Tests. Cameron White had to infuse his patented kinetic energy into the Australian line-up. Virat Kohli needed to prove that he has the talent to deliver under crisis. Yuvraj Singh had to show that the inner fires still raged. Suresh Raina had to continue the good work with his bat.

Luckily for the fans, all the six batsmen clicked and it was destined that Clarke's fifth ODI hundred (111 not out, 139b, 7x4, 1x6) will slip nto the shadows while Kohli's 118 (121b, 11x4, 1x6), his third in the limited overs format, will linger in public memory for a long time. Kohli's knock proved to be a match-winning one while India eased past Australia's 289 for three in 50 overs. The trio of Kohli, Yuvraj (58) and Raina (71 not out) helped India reply with 292 for five in 48.5 overs and that sealed the series at 1-0 as the next one-dayer in Margao was called off.

Michael Clarke (right) and Cameron White were involved in an unbeater 129 run partnership for the fourth wicket, in the second one-dayer.-K.R. DEEPAK

The night may have belonged to India but just as the lights came on for the first time in an international game in Andhra Pradesh's coastal city, Australia found gritty runs through Clarke, an industrious effort from Hussey (69) and pre-Diwali fireworks thanks to White's (89 not out, 49b, 6x4, 6x6) blistering bat. The three batsmen helped their team recover from the earlier slow start, aggravated by the cheap dismissals of openers Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine due to Ashish Nehra's incisive first spell of 4-1-3-2.

The foundation for a strong total was initially laid by Clarke and Hussey through their third-wicket partnership worth 144 runs. Risks were kept to a bare minimum before Hussey swivelled his bat and was trapped in front by off-spinner R. Ashwin, who bowled a tight line. White then swung his bat and delivered the knockout blow that flattened the Indian bowlers in the slog. The last five overs went for 84 runs in which White contributed 64 while Clarke enjoyed the spectacle from the other end. Later Dhoni admitted: “Bowling in the last overs has always been a concern.”

The two combined well for an unbeaten 129-run fourth-wicket partnership that had its biggest impact in the last over bowled by Vinay Kumar as three sixes and a four helped Australia post an imposing total.

Debutant Shikhar Dhawan's blob and Murali Vijay's inability to convert confidence into a longer stay at the wicket meant that nerves and nails were threatened in the Indian dressing room. Kohli, playing his best innings so far, took his time to get his eye in while Yuvraj found the gaps and hoisted a few over the inner-ring. Kohli then established his own style, pulling, driving and cutting with alacrity to prove that he is not inferior to anyone.

Both the batsmen gradually lapped up against debutants John Hastings and Mitchell Starc while Nathan Hauritz too was swatted around. The duo put on 137 runs for the third wicket before Yuvraj eventually fell to a slower delivery from Clint McKay.

Kohli, meanwhile, struggled with cramps, hobbled on one leg and employed a runner in Dhawan. The Delhi lad did not discard his tenure at the crease without a fight. He played a few inside-out shots and reached his hundred. With Raina merrily carting the bowlers, an Indian victory was ushered in with minimal fuss. Kohli fittingly won the Man of the Match and later the Man of the Series awards. The recognition should further boost his confidence in the months leading to the World Cup.

That India did well despite the absence of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan, augurs well for the squad though a truncated series reduced to just one match does not present enough material to cast general assumptions.

THE SCORES

Third ODI, Margao, October 24, 2010. Match abandoned.

Second ODI, Visakhapatnam, October 20, 2010. India won by five wickets.

Australia: S. Marsh b Nehra 0; T. Paine c Vinay b Nehra 9; M. Clarke (not out) 111; M. Hussey lbw b Ashwin 69; C. White (not out) 89; Extras (lb-10, w-1) 11. Total (for three wkts., in 50 overs) 289.

Fall of wickets: 1-11, 2-16, 3-160.

India bowling: Praveen 9-1-51-0; Nehra 10-1-57-2; Vinay 9-1-71-0; Ashwin 9-0-34-1; Yuvraj 10-0-48-0; Raina 3-0-18-0.

India: S. Dhawan b McKay 0; M. Vijay c Paine b McKay 15; V. Kohli c Hopes b Hastings 118; Yuvraj Singh b McKay 58; S. Raina (not out) 71; M. Dhoni b Hastings 0; S. Tiwary (not out) 12; Extras (b-8, lb-1, w-9) 18. Total (for five wkts., in 48.5 overs) 292.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-35, 3-172, 4-256, 5-257.

Australia bowling: McKay 10-0-55-3; Starc 8.5-0-51-0; Hastings 10-1-44-2; Hopes 7-0-56-0; Hauritz 10-0-54-0; Smith 3-0-23-0.

First ODI, Kochi, October 17, 2010. Match abandoned.