Rahul and Jadeja turn it around for India 

The duo’s unbroken 108-run partnership takes the team past the finish line from a precarious 83 for five at one stage; the all-rounder picks up two wickets also; Shami and Siraj scalp three each as Australia loses the last six wickets for 19 runs to get bundled out for 188

Published - March 17, 2023 11:25 pm IST - Mumbai

Amongst runs: Rahul was in his element with an unbeaten 75.

Amongst runs: Rahul was in his element with an unbeaten 75. | Photo Credit: EMMANUAL YOGINI

After the rank turners and a docile pitch during the Test series, the pacers finally had something going for them on a typical Wankhede Stadium track.

Despite the speedsters from both sides ruling the roost, K.L. Rahul’s standout knock turned out to be decisive as India took the lead in the three-match ODI series versus Australia.

Fine show: Jadeja’s all-round show helped India take a 1-0 lead.

Fine show: Jadeja’s all-round show helped India take a 1-0 lead. | Photo Credit: EMMANUAL YOGINI

Rahul’s unbeaten 75 (91b, 7x4, 1x6) — ably aided first by stand-in captain Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja with the willow — meant India overhauled the target of 189 with five wickets and 61 balls to spare.

Marsh on song

Rahul was the second-highest individual scorer of the night behind Mitchell Marsh who notched up a marvellous 81.

Rahul came in to bat with India tottering at 16 for three and when he took guard an over later, his first target was to avert Mitchell Starc’s hat-trick with the pacer having accounted for Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav with inswingers off the last two balls of his previous over.

The hat-trick ball — Rahul’s first — was crunched through covers for a four. From then on, until Jadeja whipped Starc for a four through mid-wicket to complete the formalities, Rahul was in his element in the format that he finds most comfortable with the willow.

It wasn’t easy though. While he saw off Starc’s opening burst, Shubman Gill’s scratchy knock ended in the left-armer’s sixth over, with an uppish cut to backward-point.

Just when Rahul and Hardik — who had taken India to safety in a similar low-scoring affair versus Sri Lanka in Kolkata in January — appeared to shut the door on Australia, Marcus Stoinis brought Australia back in the game.

Stoinis, who had got rid of Ishan Kishan with the new ball, returned to trap Hardik with a short-ball ploy. However, once Jadeja and Rahul staved off Starc’s two-over burst, the writing was on the wall as Rahul went after leggie Adam Zampa.

Similarly, India’s wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav bore the brunt of Marsh’s wrath. The burly all-rounder — playing as a specialist batter in the series having recovered from an ankle surgery — opened the innings along with Travis Head.

Despite Head playing Mohammed Siraj on to his stumps in the second over, with captain Steve Smith holding on to the other end, Marsh drove Mohammed Shami and Siraj with finesse.

Even Hardik and the magical arm of Shardul Thakur couldn’t stop his onslaught as he tonked the duo for three sixes on the on-side.

Once spin was introduced, Marsh freed his arms further. Kuldeep suffered the most, as he was clobbered for 21 runs off the 11 balls he bowled to Marsh.

Eventually, Marsh’s attempted hoick off a tossed-up delivery by Jadeja was top-edged to short third-man. Jadeja was soon back in action, taking a lunging catch to dismiss Marnus Labuschagne.

Shami and Siraj wiped off the lower middle-order as Australia lost the last six wickets for just 19 runs, which meant the 27,000-odd spectators could return home well in time after an early finish.

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