Cricket: India Beat Australia By 36 Runs, Level ODI Series! Shikhar, Virat, Rahul, Kuldeep Shine!

Shikhar Dhawan

Outplayed in the first ODI match in Mumbai, India started the second must-win match in Rajkot with two psychologically adverse factors: first, Kohli lost the toss again and obviously put into bat for the second time; second, India was yet to win an ODI in Rajkot, losing to England and South Africa earlier—batting first on both occasions. However, three of the Indian top four had played well, Rohit, looking great for a blast, could not complete his half century getting out for 42 off 44 ballas while Dhawan went on nicely, but missing a century—getting out for 96 in 90 balls, and captain Kohli was in full flow playing a useful knock of 78 for the team. This, at least, has ensured India putting up a big score—a 300+ target, however, Australia looked good to assail even a 400+ total in Mumbai. Today India came with two changes in the final eleven: Manish Pandey replacing Rishabh Pant who had a concussion injury, and Saini coming in for dropped Thakur. While Virat Kohli got back to this usual No.3 position India again inexplicably promoted Shreyas Iyer to No.4 in place of Rahul, and this ‘oddity’ misfired; Iyer getting out for only 7 in 17 balls. So, at a time when India looked to race to 200 runs in 30 overs, the hosts decided to lose a wicket making it 3 down.

Man-of-the-match KL Rahul
And they did achieve it, indeed, that is to say India did post 340/6 thanks largely to an explosive knock of 80 in 52 balls by ‘demoted’ Rahul. No doubt, it was a challenging total even for the might of Australia assuming Indian bowlers defended well in the field this time. When Virat and Rahul were going great guns a total in excess of 360 seemed possible, but Zampa’s three-wicket haul and Richardson’s 2 neutralized this. Manish Pandey, who was given precedence over veteran Kedar Jadhav, perished easily. The fact that pacers Cummins and Starc went wicket-less and spinners did better held some good hope for the Indian spinner duo Jadeja-Kuldeep in the Aussie reply.

Steven Smith
What followed was non-linear and uneven: the dreaded openers—Warner and Finch—got out relatively cheaply, but most able successor Steven Smith steadied the boat and set up a rollicking partnership with Labuschagne--an all-rounder who debuted in the Mumbai ODI, and brought Australia into strong contention. Jadeja for India struck at the right juncture breaking the partnership as Labuschagne got out caught. India sensed that the required run-rate for Australia was nearing 9, and so it was a matter of 1 or 2 more wickets to bring the game under their control, but except for Jadeja no bowler seemed to do the job for the team. Bumrah bowled tightly, but failed to strike. Again, the match was slowly slipping out of India’s hand.  
              
And then, the turning point in favor of India. Kuldeep Yadav gets Carey out caught by Kohli and in the 5th ball of the same over hits the jackpot—bowls Smith for 98! With 5 wickets done at the score of 221 in the 38th over the required run-rate now becomes dangerous, and ever climbing then onwards, sealing India’s case for winning this must-win game level the Series 1-1. The Indian bowlers find new spirit and make it increasingly difficult for the Aussies. Shami clean bowls Turner at 6 down for 259 in the 44th over. And lo! Shami gets on a hat-trick track bowling Pat Cummins in the second ball of his over. At the end of 45 overs, Australia reach 268 for 6 wickets needing 73 runs in 30 balls. India now in clear sight of a much-needed victory. Then Navdeep Saini captured two scalps in the 47th over, making it 9 down for the visitors. 

In the 49th over Richardson had a few lusty hits off Shami allowing Australia cross the 300 mark. The end: Jasprit Bumrah finally takes the final wicket in the final over.  

And, India beat Australia by 36 runs leveling the ODI Series 1-1, ending the brief jinx at Rajkot. The last and the final cracker of a match between the two will be played in Bangalore on 19th January, 2020.

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