India have raced to a 2-0 series lead against Australia, following up their Chennai victory with a comprehensive 50-run win over Australia in Kolkata on Thursday night. After opting to bat on a difficult wicket, India posted a competitive 252 before dismissing the visitors for 202 in 43.1 overs. As a result of this win, Team India displaced South Africa and now occupy the top spot in the ICC ODI rankings.
The highlight of the Indian innings was Virat Kohli’s masterly 92 and his 102-run partnership with Ajinkya Rahane. Before this match, a few pundits had attempted to pile pressure on the Indian captain citing his poor returns in the six innings against Australia this year. Unfair it was, but someone saw it fit to club returns from Test matches and ODIs, and establish a non-existent pattern to his dismissals against Australia.
But the Indian captain answered his critics in style. On a warm afternoon, on a surface which wasn’t the typical sub-continent pitch, and against an attack that had done their homework and maintained their discipline, Virat Kohli persevered and crafted brilliant innings of 92 – the highest score of the match.
There were several praiseworthy traits in Kohli’s innings. First, the way he built his innings; he was slow off the blocks – scoring just one run off the first ten balls he faced, but thereafter opened up and scored freely. At no stage during the Indian innings did the pitch ease out and allow batsmen to play their strokes; yet, Kohli not only assumed a high degree of control and rode the bowling, but also accelerated steadily. His degree of control – meaning deliveries which he middled or left alone with conviction – climbed from 80% in the first ten deliveries, to 93.2% in the latter part of his innings. What was also impressive about Kohli’s innings was the areas in which he scored; he scored plenty of runs through cover and extra cover – an area the pundits had pointed out as an area he was vulnerable.
The second stand out feature of Virat Kohli’s innings was his adaptability. Contrary to expectations that the surface at the Eden Gardens would have plenty of runs, the pitch used on Thursday was actually two-paced and stroke-making wasn’t easy. The Australian quicks generally bowled on one side of the wickets and tested the temperament of the batsmen. A sunny afternoon, a high degree of humidity and very little breeze meant conditions were trying. Kohli adapted to all those challenges; he was determined, maintained his discipline and intent at the same time. Boundaries were hard to come by, so he chose to accumulate runs by running between the wickets – disregarding the extreme heat and humidity which took a severe toll on several of the Australian players.
It was unusual to see, but Virat did what the circumstances demanded; he accumulated the majority of his runs by running the ones (42) and the twos (9). And don’t discount the runs he ran for his partners too.
Virat Kohli’s vigil ended nearly two and a half hours after he first took strike. It was a solid innings and a three-figure score would have been fitting. But that was not to be as he was dismissed when attempting to run a back of a length delivery from Nathan Coulter-Nile to the third man, he dragged the ball back onto his stumps. The 92 runs the Indian captain scored on the day were of the highest class.
Spinners Strangle Aussies
The Aussies needed 253 to win – not a challenging task by any stretch of the imagination. But this Australian line-up just doesn’t appear to have what it takes to win matches; there are just too many loose ends. After Bhuvneshwar Kumar prised out the openers cheaply, Australia’s best chance was if their captain Steven Smith matched-or-bettered his counterpart’s efforts earlier in the afternoon.
Smith, playing his 100th ODI, scored a patient 59 and stitched together a 76-run partnership with Travis Head that resurrected the innings from 9 for 2. But once that partnership was broken – when the latter pulled a low full-toss straight to the hands of short mid-wicket, the Indian spinners took control.
Yuzvendra Chahal was outstanding. It appears to be a problem with their approach, but the Aussie batsmen had absolutely no clue on how to play him. They played out dot balls after dot balls, didn’t attempt to put pressure on him, and allowed him to get away with figures of 10-1-34-2 – which included the two big middle-order scalps of Travis Head and Glenn Maxwell.
Kuldeep Yadav had saved some heroics for the latter half of the innings. Despite conceding 20 runs in his first three overs, he finished with figures of 3-54 – his wickets coming by way of a hat-trick. The 22-year old chinaman bowler dismissed Matthew Wade, Ashton Agar and Pat Cummins off the second, third and fourth balls of his eighth over to become only the third-ever Indian bowler to pick a one-day hat-trick.
The final two wickets were picked by Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar as Australia were bowled out for 202. Marcus Stoinis remained unbeaten on 62 of 65 balls.