2nd ODI: Battling India pull off a thriller

2nd ODI: Battling India pull off a thriller

 India's Virat Kohli celebrates after reaching his century during the 2nd ODI against Australia at Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur. PTI photo

Virat Kohli crafted another gem in blazing sunshine but his bowlers ended up hogging all the limelight in the bright floodlights as India downed Australia in a nerve-jangling encounter to take a 2-0 lead here on Tuesday.

Taking guard at the VCA Stadium as early as in the second over, skipper Kohli slammed a fighting 116 (120b, 10x4) to help India post 250 all out in 48.2 overs on a challenging pitch. Unlike most of his centuries where he batters the opposition with a brutal mix of style and power, the 40th ODI ton was cocktail of patience, endurance and hard graft.

However, all that sweat and toil appeared headed towards the recycle bin when the Australians threatened to pull off a major coup with Marcus Stoinis (52, 65b, 4x4, 1x6) at the heart if it. The muscular all-rounder, despite running out of partners, took charge in final over with the Australians needing just 11 runs and two wickets in hands.

With all the frontline bowlers having completed their quota, skipper Kohli had to choose between the cunning part-time off-spin of Kedar Jadhav or the military medium pace of Vijay Shankar. Kohli placed his faith on Shankar and the all-rounder, showing nerves of steel, struck off the very first ball, trapping Stoinis leg-before-wicket. A visibly dejected Stoinis immediately asked for a referral but he knew he was a sitting duck.

Moments later, the three red lights flashed and as a heart-broken Stoinis trudged back, the Indians jumped up in joy. New man Adam Zampa stole a two off the very next ball but saw his stumps rattled in the third ball as India completed a thrilling eight-run win.   

The Indian bowlers actually made an ordinary start to their defence. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami struggled to get their lines and lengths right and the under-fire opener Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja negotiated their opening spells with ease to raise 60 runs in the first 10 overs.

A nervous-looking Kohli immediately summoned Ravindra Jadeja, Shankar, Kuldeep Yadav and Kedar Jadhav but Finch and Khawaja handled them effectively. Kuldeep, hit for a huge six by Finch, then switched his ends in the 15th over to deliver the first blow on the Aussies. Finch, attempting another sweep, completely missed the ball to be adjudged LBW.

Like in the Indian innings where one wicket led to another, Australia lost Khawaja in the very next over, the left-hander succumbing to the guile of Jadhav. Having got a double opening, the Indian bowlers quickly regained their bite to apply enormous pressure on the visitors.

All of them kept tight lines to choke the run flow. Going at six runs at one stage, the Australians started to crawl and when Shaun Marsh and Glenn Maxwell departed in quick succession, they appeared in trouble at 132/4.

The awkward Peter Handscomb and big-hitting Marcus Stoinis, however, refused to throw in the towel. They soaked up the enormous pressure, knowing wickets in hand would transfer the heat onto India. They did so with a dogged partnership before the brilliance of Jadeja saw Handscomb being run out. The Aussies lost their way thereafter but Stoinis kept them in the race. However, he too felt apart with the tape in sight as Indian stole a win.

While the bowlers deserve the credit of defending a tricky target, no words of praise are enough for Kohli who gave another demonstration of his class. He forged two key partnerships, an 81-run stand for the fourth wicket with Shankar and then a crucial 67-run stand with Jadeja for the seventh wicket. Those two stands, Kohli’s masterpiece and the bowlers showing good nerves in the end were instrumental in India's thrilling win.

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