Kohli, spinners help India seal T20 series against Australia

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Kohli, spinners help India seal T20 series against Australia
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This match was a typical Indian affair; vociferous crowds, flags waving, runs on the board, a Virat Kohli firework display followed by spin getting India back into the contest, fielders responding brilliantly and Jaspit Bumrah delivering the final nails in the coffin with some perfectly executed yorkers. But even before that, the fans were dancing…

The match was played in front of 58787 spectators at the MCG but the reality was the noise and buzz at the stadium seemed like there were 80000. India put in a dominant display to win the 2nd T20I against Australia and seal the series 2-0 with a game to play.

It was a momentous day for India overall in sport. Earlier, the Indian woman’s cricket team secured a historic series victory against the Australian women with a ten-wicket thumping – their first bilateral series win against the hosts in any format. Across the road from the MCG, the World number 1 pairing of Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis won their first Australian Open doubles crown, and now hold three of the four grand slam titles.

Australia had six changes ahead of this match, whilst India seemed the more settled team and went in unchanged. Steve Smith and David Warner were sent to New Zealand to prepare for Australia’s upcoming tour there, however Usman Khawaja in the form of his life was still overlooked.

A threat of rain loomed over much of the day in Melbourne. Overs had to be reduced in the earlier woman’s match and Finch on the basis of the prevailing conditions opted to bowl first after winning the toss.

However as the Indian openers strode out to the middle, the skies cleared with even a glimmer of sunshine breaking through. There was some swing on offer early for Australia, but they were unable to secure a breakthrough. Rohit Sharma started nervously playing and missing at deliveries that shaped away from him. He doesn’t move his feet much, but has an incredible eye. Batting in the form that he is, he was able to survive and once he got his eye in displayed the kind of batting that saw him named the Player of the Series in the recently concluded ODI series.

Whilst Sharma struggled initially, it was actually Shikhar Dhawan that provided India with the early impetus. Dhawan got off the mark with a whipped boundary to fine leg and then took to Hastings in the 4th over. A dance down the track as well as a mighty heave over the mid-wicket boundary for six signaled Dhawan’s intent even as Sharma was able to ease into his groove.

The very next over, it was Shama’s turn to join in the act as he hit Faulker for three boundaries. Dhawan followed in Faulker’s next over hitting the bowler for a four and six. After two overs bowled, Faulker’s figures were 0/27 with the Indian openers clearly targeting him. Nathan Lyon, making his T20 debut was another bowler that wasn’t allowed to settle with his only over of this innings being smashed for 15 runs, including a free hit which was duly deposited for six over long-on by Sharma.

Dhawan perished for 42 trying a reverse sweep off Maxwell, but in walked a man taking batting to a new level. Virat Kohli has utterly dominated Australia this summer and nothing changed on this night. Upper-cuts, elegant steers and wristy whips were all on display. However the highlights were Kohli’s dances down the track to the fast bowlers. He hit the ball to all parts with such precision and timing in his 33-ball unbeaten 59 that Shane Watson would say later in the post-match press conference that Kohli was a “pleasure to be able to watch,” despite being on the opposing side. He spoke highly of Kohli’s incredible batting and how he had thwarted all of Australia’s bowling plans to him thus far.

Virat Kohli is scaling new batting peaks almost every match and in this game became the first T20 international batsman to average over 50 with a minimum of at least 500 runs scored. This was also his seventh fifty plus score in his last 10 T20I innings. Added to the 530 runs Kohli has scored against the Australians this summer across formats at an average of 106, it is no wonder the opposition bowlers are having nightmares.

Rohit Sharma hit 60 off 47 deliveries before being run-out after a mix up with Kohli. A few lusty boundaries towards the end by MS Dhoni and India had set an imposing total of 3/184.

Aaron Finch, who had lamented of his inability to increase his tempo whilst batting in the previous T20I looked set to reverse that in this match. Australia came out hard against India’s new ball pairing of Jaspit Bumrah and Ashish Nehra hitting 10 boundaries inside the first six overs with the score racing to 0/62.

It wasn’t until spin was introduced into the attack that India looked like coming back into the contest. Dhoni missed a stumping of Marsh off Jadeja’s bowling. Umesh Yadav almost pulled off a blinder to dismiss Finch when going for a catch off Jadeja’s bowling in the 9th over but parried the ball for six instead. Finch continued to ride his luck with two more dropped chances, both coming in Ashwin’s 2nd over. But it was Marsh who perished a ball later to the same bowler holing out to long on for 23.

Wickets fell in each of the next two overs as India began to squeeze. Lynn, who had been in blistering form in the BBL has found international cricket a little tougher and he skied a ball straight in the air trying to hit the ball out of the part. His dismissal for 1 by Pandya and then Maxwell stumped by Dhoni off the bowling of Yuvraj Singh were key moments in the Australian run chase.

Despite the earlier dropped catches, India’s ground fielding was brilliant and with the asking run rate skyrocketing, the pressure was on Australia. Ravindra Jadeja produced catching brilliance by holding on to a ball that was rocketed to him by Watson off his own bowling. He was again in the action next over as he accounted for the run out of Finch – Australia’s last hope for 70 runs. Of more concern for the Australians was that Finch was found to have tweaked his hamstring, which doesn’t augur well for them with the World T20 not far away. Surely now, Usman Khawaja seems a certainty for the final match.

Wickets continued to fall at regular intervals and Jaspit Bumrah’s twin yorkers in the final over of the innings sealed the victory for India by 27 runs. Shane Watson said the team “haven’t been able to execute will in the middle overs,” whilst complimenting Dhoni’s maneuvering of spinners in the match. India’s spinners had come to the party accounting for four wickets, whilst only conceding 66 runs off 10 overs – despite not being much turn offered.

It had taken India four matches on this Australian tour to get into the groove, but they have now managed to win the last three. The consistency of India’s top order batting has been a real highlight, however the bowling is starting to show that it can deliver too.

This match was a typical Indian affair; runs on the board, a Virat Kohli firework display followed by spin getting India back into the contest, fielders responding brilliantly and Jaspit Bumrah delivering the final nails in the coffin with some perfectly executed yorkers. But even before that, the fans were dancing.

The feeling amongst the Indian fans at the MCG was electric throughout the game. Every wicket or boundary would be met with thousands of tri-colour flags waving. At that moment, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Mumbai – not Melbourne. India is not due to be back at the MCG for another few years, but this was a victory that would be savored and etched in the memories of all those that attended for some time to come.

“I love coming to Australia,” said a beaming Virat Kohli, the Man of the Match. That doesn’t augur well for the host nation with still one match remaining.

As an aside and at a time when the national cricketing body in the country seeks to work with more local community news agencies, there was some irony in a member working for them appearing to question where this was being read and the veracity of the writer. To educate the unaware, the Indian Sun is one of Australia’s leading community news organisations delivering news that matters to the community delivered through print, online and social media outlets.

Many would agree that cricket is not just a sport for our community, but a part of life, something that connects and brings out the best of the vibrant diaspora that makes up India.
Let the writing do the talking.
Happy reading!

The writer is founder of Infinity Cricket, a leading cricket organisation. He is passionate about the sport and its development. He founded Infinity Cricket in 2010 with a vision of ‘Connecting people through Cricket.’ Infinity Cricket organizes Australia’s premier ‘open’ T20 cricket events at the grassroots level and also has a range of cricket equipment & sporting apparel. Navneet is also a knowledgeable cricket writer.

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Web: www.infinityt20cricket.com

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