India wrap it up in style

Opener Rohit slams blazing century as hosts romp to 4-1 series victory

India wrap it up in style
Ruthless India hit back in emphatic fashion after the Australians suffered an all too familiar implosion to wrap up the five-match one-day international series 4-1 here on Sunday.

Winning the toss on a good batting strip at VCA Stadium, the Australians, seemingly rejuvenated following a gritty win in Bengaluru last Thursday, started with plenty of promise but then lost their way through reckless shot-making to settle for a below-par 242.

With most of the Indian top-order batsmen in stellar form over the last few months, the Australians needed a brilliant performance with the ball to stop the hosts from marching away with a win. That was not to be as Rohit Sharma (125, 109b, 11x4, 5x6) hammered a sizzling century and laid a strong foundation with opening partner Ajinkya Rahane (61, 74b, 7x4).

Rohit and Rahane, who got India off to blazing starts in the previous two games, were comparatively calmer in their 124-run stand at the City of Oranges. Knowing the pitch didn’t possess too many demons and the team wasn’t chasing a daunting target, they took their time to get off the blocks. They just kept the run-rate going at the required rate and hardly took any risks in the opening 10 overs.

Slowly they began to open their shoulders with Rohit particularly severe on leg-spinner Adam Zampa. The Mumbaikar, playing some exquisite cover drives off the pacers, stepped down and carted Zampa disdainfully to batter Steve Smith’s premier spin option. Both Rohit and Rahane progressed neck and neck before the latter fell leg-before to Nathan Coulter-Nile after compiling his third half-century of the series.

Rohit, however, continued to bat with elegance as the sold-out crowd lapped up every bit of the entertainment. All his shots oozed class and there was little the Australians could do to stop him. The Aussies bowling also lacked guile needed to gain breakthroughs on this track. For much of the game they were predictable and Rohit just feasted on them, bringing up his 14th ODI ton with an authoritative front-foot pull-shot for six.

It looked like Rohit and skipper Virat Kohli would finish the game off in style but they fell while trying to bring a fast end. Aussies delayed the inevitable a bit but eventually crashed to a seven-wicket defeat and plenty of overs to spare.

While the batsmen powered India to a commanding triumph, the bowlers, especially part-timer Kedar Jadhav (1/48) and frontline spinners Axar Patel (3/38) and Kuldeep Yadav deserve praise for choking down the Aussies.

Openers David Warner (53) and Aaron Finch (32) started sedately but after getting their eye in began to dominate the Indians with some blistering shots. Hardik Pandya delivered the first breakthrough, dismissing Finch before the spinners took over. Jadhav, who ended up bowling a full quota of 10 overs, trapped Smith leg-before in the 20th over after the Aussie went for a high-risk sweep shot and totally missed the ball. Three overs later Warner stepped down and tried to take on Axar and ended up holing out to Manish Pandey in the deep. Peter Handscomb didn’t last too long either and India were on top, reducing the Aussies to 118/4.

Marcus Stoinis (46) and Travis Head (42) then forged an 87-run fifth-wicket stand to stage a resurrection. But just when they were looking to turn the heat on India, both perished to hand the initiative back to India. Pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah returned to complete the wonderful job of the spinners, restricting Australia to a total that the Indian top-order made a mockery of.
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