At lunch, the Indian fans were belting out the old number “we will, we will rock you” . And beyond the ropes, Sunil Gavaskar, here as a commentator, jived and exhorted the crowd to maintain the tempo. It was that kind of a joyous day as Virat Kohli’s men defeated Australia by 36 runs in a key ICC World Cup clash at the Oval.
Chasing India’s 352 for five that featured Shikhar Dhawan’s 117, Aaron Finch’s men replied with 316.
The pursuit commenced cautiously as David Warner (56) and Aaron Finch were circumspect against Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. The latter was unlucky as he had Warner hopping but the awkward fend and the resultant inner-edge just rolled into the stumps without dislodging the bails! Just as the runs dried, Finch cut loose in a Hardik Pandya over that yielded 19. The Australian skipper, though, failed to beat a throw from Kedar Jadhav.
Placed at 61 for one, Australia’s hopes rested on Warner and Steve Smith (69). Kohli swapped his bowlers, used Bumrah in short bursts and kept the runs under check. Smith struck Kedar Jadhav for a six but India was happy with its economy rate. The almost run-a-ball 72 partnership between Smith and Warner for the second wicket, however, couldn’t kick off on to a higher plane.
Warner succumbed to leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, but Smith soldiered on. With Usman Khawaja slamming a six and four off Kuldeep Yadav, the Aussies hinted that they were still alive. Kohli immediately employed Bumrah, who knocked down Khawaja’s stumps.
Glenn Maxwell then flung his bat around, but with Bhuvneshwar delivering a double blow in the 40th over to dismiss Smith and Marcus Stoinis, Australia was gaping at a steep 115 from the last 10 overs. The final nail was driven in when Maxwell miscued a hit off Chahal and the rest flickered and perished.
Earlier, Sunday dawned bright and out in the middle, Kohli elected to bat and his decision found vindication through a commanding performance. Dhawan’s ton (117, 109b, 16x4) top-lined the innings while Rohit Sharma (57), the skipper (82) himself and Pandya (48) played their parts.
Initially, openers Rohit and Dhawan practised watchful consolidation against Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc. They had their lucky moments, especially when Rohit uppishly flicked Starc and watched Nathan Coulter-Nile drop a tough chance at square-leg.
On two then, Rohit just focused on settling down. Dhawan, meanwhile, cover-drove Cummins and gratefully tucked into seamer Coulter-Nile’s errant line and hit three fours. Rohit, too, broke his shackles once leg-spinner Adam Zampa was pressed into service. A loose delivery was promptly slog-swept, and the first-wicket pair cut loose. Rohit guided Maxwell past third-man and hooked Coulter-Nile for six while Dhawan slashed and upper-cut, and India reached 100 in 19 overs.
Just as the Aussies seemed resigned to a leather-hunt, Rohit got dismissed while trying to dab one behind the wicket. By then, Dhawan and Rohit had added 127 in 22.3 overs. Finch’s men then tried to follow a parched-earth policy for Kohli, pitching it a bit wide after packing the off-side.
The Indian captain, though, stole his singles and when Zampa came on, Dhawan drove and lofted with finesse. Kohli, too, cashed in and lashed at Cummins. After Dhawan reached his hundred, he drilled one past Starc, disdain rippling through that stroke. The southpaw eventually holed out in the deep but his 93-run second-wicket partnership with Kohli laid the foundation for the final assault.
Mayhem ensued as Pandya, promoted up the order, and Kohli pressed the accelerator. The latter, dropped on 41 by Alex Carey off Coulter-Nile, reached his fifty. Pandya hoisted a six off Maxwell, Kohli thumped Cummins and the two added 81 for the third wicket off just 53 deliveries. The runs flowed as M.S. Dhoni struck a cameo, and Australia was left wringing its hands.