India vs Australia, 3rd ODI: Virat Kohli’s century goes in vain as Australia keep series alive

RANCHI: On a day when Indian cricketers wore specially-designed camouflage army caps on the field to pay homage to the Pulwama martyrs of February 14, underdogs Australia authored a 32-run victory in the third One-Day international to keep their hopes alive in the five-match series. It turned out to be a fantastic Friday for the tourists who can now head to Mohali for the fourth ODI on Sunday with everything to play for.

Australia amassed 313 for five in their 50 overs before bowling India out for 281 in 48.2 overs under lights at JSCA International Stadium. However, just the numbers and the series scoreline do not do justice to the superlative show of batsmanship put up by two individuals who are like chalk and cheese – man-of-the-match Usman Khawaja and India skipper Virat Kohli.

Asked to bat by the Indian captain, Khawaja, in the company of Kohli’s counterpart Aaron Finch, cracked his maiden ODI hundred and in the process, went on to add 193 runs for the opening wicket, registering Australia’s third highest opening stand in 50-overs cricket against India. The left-handed Australian opener got 104 runs with the help of 11 boundaries and a six.

Khawaja had always been thought of as a great talent in Australian cricket whose temperament was suspect. On a war m Friday after noon on a benign surface, he decided to address that question. The eloquent drives, the perfectly timed cuts and the short-arm pulls – all of it was on display from the Queensland batsman as the Indian bowlers and fielders wilted under the onslaught.

While it was Finch who was the more aggressive of the two and unintentionally managed to send Mohammed Shami out of action for a considerable period after his straight drive struck the pacer on his right shin, Khawaja made good a reprieve when Shikhar Dhawan dropped him off Ravindra Jadeja at 17.

Finch, who also deserved a century, fell just seven runs short. Glenn Maxwell played a characteristic cameo, while Marcus Stoinis and Alex Carey played their part.

Then Pat Cummins ran in and bowled with venom. Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu were bitten. Cummins was quick, fast and everything the Australian pacers have been lacking in recent times. At the other end, Jhye Richardson got rid of an out-of-form Dhawan and India were tottering at 27 for three.

Kohli had walked in at No. 3, and had the local boy, MS Dhoni, probably playing his last international match in front of his home crowd, for company. The duo staged a mini recovery, adding 59 runs for the fourth wicket. Dhoni flexed his muscles, adjusted his gloves routinely but apart from the two boundaries and a six over the mid-wicket boundary, gave his city little to cheer about.

His departure prompted the Indian captain to change gears. With Kedar Jadhav at the other end, Kohli brought out the full repertoire of strokes as he tore into the Australian bowlers. It was Kohli the chasemaster at his best. Adam Zampa, Stoinis, Richardson and Nathan Lyon were cut, hooked and drove with purpose, poise and precision.

Even Jadhav’s fall after an 88-run fifth-wicket partnership could do little to slow him down. Soon enough, Kohli brought up his 41st century with the help of 14 boundaries, becoming the fastest captain to reach 4000 runs in ODI history, in just 63 innings.

In the end, it was the upward movement of the required rate that got the better of him. Zampa castled him for an exquisite 123 of 95 balls. With him, India’s hopes were put out. Yes, Vijay Shankar did clobber a few but those were far from enough.

Source: Times of India

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