MARCH 8, 2019
Brief Scorecard: Australia 313 for 5 (Khawaja 104, Finch 93, Kuldeep 3-64) beat India 281 (Kohli 123, Richardson 3-37, Cummins 3-37, Zampa 3-70) by 32 runs
RANCHI – There hardly goes a day when Virat Kohli is not compared to Sachin Tendulkar, but in the Ranchi ODI he was a little more like Tendulkar: he scored an imperious century but ran out of support in a chase of 314, much like Tendulkar used to. It is not often Kohli is made to experience this feeling: this was his 41st hundred, 25th when batting second, and only his fourth in an unsuccessful chase.
Australia spread out the scoring duties more: Usman Khawaja scored his maiden ODI century, Aaron Finch brought up his first fifty in 22 limited-overs international innings, and Glenn Maxwell scored 47. Wristspinners continued to play a significant role: Kuldeep Yadav’s three wickets ensured there was no finishing kick in Australia’s innings, and Zampa’s three sealed the match for Australia, including Kohli’s wicket when he was on an absolute roll.
Kohli scored 123 of India’s first 219 runs on a pitch that had become slow and started to take turn about 30 overs into the game, and he single-handedly gave India a chance in the chase. Helping him was dew, because of which India decided to chase, making the pitch skiddier halfway into the chase. Wickets kept felling at the other end, though. From 27 for 3, Kohli and MS Dhoni took India to 86 only for Zampa to bowl Dhoni. Kohli and Kedar Jadhav took India to 174, but again Zampa intervened with Jadhav’s wicket. Kohli, though, kept getting better and better, the crowd kept getting louder, Australia burnt a review, the game seemed to be slipping away, and then Zampa castled Kohli. India still needed 95 off 75, which proved too much despite Vijay Shankar’s 32 off 30.
This was Australia’s first 300 since last June; more importantly it was some runs from their out-of-form captain. His partnership of 193 with Khawaja was the seventh-highest opening stand for Australia in ODIs. They started out when the track was a road. The ball came on, didn’t move much, and both of them took turns at being the aggressor. Khawaja was the first off the rank, but Finch struck a significant blow, driving one back into the shin of Mohammed Shami, who had to go off the field after bowling just three overs.
India were forced to introduce spin sooner than they would have liked, and both Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav were attacked early. The biggest assault came against Jadhav, who has become a bit of a headache for the best of the batsmen with his unusual trajectory and pace. Before this game, Finch had faced only 13 Jadhav deliveries for 11 runs. Here he got stuck in first ball, launching him for a six over wide long-on. Two more came in Jadhav’s next. It was the end of Jadhav for an economy rate of 16, the worst of his career. The score now was 111 in 17 overs, and Finch – 58 off 53 – had overtaken Khawaja.
India were now struggling for options. Thankfully Shami came back, but Vijay Shankar and Jadeja were still left with a lot of overs to bowl. Khawaja took a shine to Vijay, and Kuldeep too went for a few with the ball still coming on. The first wicket, though fell to Kuldeep, denying Finch a century. A ball-tracking error meant we will never know if Finch was right in reviewing the lbw call. Maxwell made sure the run rate didn’t suffer.
Khawaja fell just after getting to his hundred, pulling Shami straight to midwicket, but the big wicket came in the 42nd over. Shaun Marsh punched Kuldeep wide of extra cover, but Jadeja somehow got a hand to it. Then he slid and turned, took a moment to choose which end to go to, and then sent the rocket out. It would still not have been enough if Dhoni had done the conventional collection. He just coolly deflected the ball onto the stumps to catch Maxwell short. This was a rare moment of brilliance on a day that India were woeful with their ground fielding.
Kuldeep made the most of the new batsmen and the slowness in the pitch to thwart Australia’s finish with the wickets of Marsh and Peter Handscomb in the 44th over. Only 69 came in the last 10 overs, but it could have been worse if not for some smart batting from Marcus Stonis and Alex Carey. They gave themselves some time to get used to the pace of the pitch before managing 38 off the last four overs.
Despite that underwhelming finish, Australia knew they had given themselves a great chance on this pitch. Their fields said as much. There was no slip at the start of the innings; the catching men were in front. Pat Cummins bowled cross-seam with the new ball, bashing the hard length and letting the pitch do the rest. Maxwell flew to his right at point to send back Shikhar Dhawan, and Cummins’ accuracy accounted for Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu.
Kohli, though, was batting on a different pitch. A special batsman, at the peak of his powers, eliminated the conditions with some exquisite stroke-play. He needed support at the other end, but Zampa kept chipping away. The asking rate kept climbing even as Kohli and Dhoni repaired the innings. Dhoni was 26 off 41, the asking rate 7.35 for 31 overs, when he tried a big hit off Zampa but misread the length and played on. The Kohli-Jadhav partnership was quicker and longer, but Jadhav continued playing the sweep off Zampa despite getting beaten on his two previous attempts.
When Jadhav fell, India needed 140 off 110. The dew had set it, Kohli was irrepressible, there was still support left in the form of Vijay. This is when Zampa made the big breakthrough. In the 38th over, when Kohli hit him for successive boundaries, it seemed like India were getting away. Then Zampa beat Kohli with the drift, squeezing past his inside edge and hitting the leg stump. Vijay then showed glimpses of why he is rated by the team management, but fell with India still 63 away.