Twitter applauds as Kohli becomes fastest to reach 22,000 international runs
29 Nov 2020
Australia defeated India by 51 runs and took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the ODI series with a match remaining to be played, in Canberra on December 2. Virat Kohli, along with his teammates in the middle order, tried their best to keep India in with a chance of chasing the massive target of 390 but fell short as a spark of fielding brilliance ended his promising innings.
The chase started well for the Men in Blue with Mayank Agarwal finding perfect timing from the word go. Mitchell Starc was punished for being too full in the first over when he was looking for swing. Dhawan too came to the party as he opened his account with a drive on the up, played in his signature style through the cover.
But, in the end, Josh Hazlewood proved to be too accurate for Dhawan’s search for too many boundaries in the powerplay. On the other hand, Agarwal was knocked over by a beauty from Cummins that left him from its starting line outside the off stump. Both Agarwal and Dhawan would be disappointed for not converting their aggressive starts into something bigger and substantive for the team.
A focussed Virat Kohli came in after Dhawan’s departure and he was soon joined by Shreyas Iyer at the crease. Both of them steadied the ship and started chipping away at the required rate with boundaries at regular intervals. After gifting his wicket away through uncharacteristic recklessness in the last game, Kohli made sure that he did not commit the same mistake of over attacking this time. Iyer, on the other end, kept teasing the boundary riders more frequently than his captain through his well-placed shots.
The level of Kohli’s focus on chasing the mammoth 390 run-target could be assessed by the way he turned around to adjust his gloves in signature style after completing a fifty without acknowledging it. He was proactive as a batsman while being very flexible in his shot-making. The 32-year old was not getting his usual flat batted drives on to the offside against the leg spinner Zampa and gave up on the shot. He did take him on over extra cover, stepping out of the crease, to the pitch of the ball.
Virat was not at his fluent best but Starc provided him with the option of showing what his best may look like when he flicked his half volley pitched outside leg stump way over the long-leg boundary. It was similar to the one he had played in the last game off Pat Cummins. He was doing well in keeping his team alive in pursuit of the big target but his innings was cut short in the manner exactly an unlucky captain of a team for whom nothing is going right can expect to get back to the pavilion.
KL Rahul proved his worth lower down the order as he unleashed his range of strokes and belted all bowlers over the boundaries. He was especially severe against the short ball and was smart enough to pick the shorter side of the ground to attempt his big shots. Hardik Pandya had an anti-climax of a day as he struggled for timing while the required run-rate kept on climbing. Furthermore, his continuous failure to get the run rate going saw KL Rahul attempting big shots of almost every ball and ultimately, Zampa used the advantage of a soaring required rate to beat Rahul in the game of patience.
Earlier in the day, Australia captain Aaron Finch won the toss and elected to bat first. In a near-similar script to the first match, both he and David Warner saw off the initial overs of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Sami before teeing off. There was a slight difference today as Warner was the dominant batsman while Finch took more time than the left-hander.
All Indian bowlers looked flat, both in attitude and bowling, while their inability to strike through or even control the flow of the game was once again exposed as the Aussie batsmen started taking the game away from them.
Right from the start, it all looked like the first game where the openers tired down the pacers and then the long batting lineup, mainly Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell made full use of their inaccuracies. Bumrah’s problem of not finding a wicket along with Shami’s struggle to hit the suitable lengths was continued on a pitch as flat as a highway. Highly promising Navdeep Saini was not able to deliver even half of what he had promised before the tour. The young pacer was, at one stage, conceding runs in excess of 10 per over.
Finch was taken away by Shami but only after he and Warner had put Australia on track to better their score in the last match. Before Kohli and his bowlers could even start to check their momentum, Smith started from where he had left off in the last match and denied Men in Blue any chance to even think of coming back to control the following passage of play.
He was aggressive from the outset and, unlike the last match, did not take too many balls to settle down before tearing apart the bowlers. He showed how good a form he was batting in when Shami overpitched a delivery near his pads and the prolific right-hander responded with a classical straight drive. Warner was soon gone after his arrival but he was not devoid of partners who could match his shot-making as Marnus Labuschagne played a useful supporting inning right from his arrival at the crease to aptly support the audacious and extravagant stroke-making of Smith.
From Bumrah to Shami and Chahal to Jadeja, every bowler was put to the sword as Smith scored a masterful century, this one coming in one ball less compared to the one scored two days back.
Labuschagne and Maxwell reaped all the benefits of a bowling attack scarred by the onslaught from the Australian top three. They guided the Kangaroos to a score that pushed the Indian team against the wall even before they walked out to bat. Such was the dominance of the Smith- Labuschagne-Maxwell trio that Australia could score a massive 220 runs from the last 20 overs. Chasing such a big target was always going to be an uphill task for the Indian side, even more so as they are without their best opening batsman Rohit Sharma.
If being outplayed in both the batting and bowling departments wasn't enough, the touring team was outplayed in the fielding department too. The catch dropping spree of Kohli's men that started in the last game was unstoppable in this match as well, Aussies were up to the task as two blinders took the wickets of Shreyas Iyer and Kohli when both of them were looking set for a big inning.
While the Aussies celebrated Kohli’s wicket more enthusiastically, Smith, who is yet to set a foot wrong in the series so far, dived valiantly to cling onto a shot nailed by Iyer at the short mid-wicket position to peg back the momentum of the Indian batting that was brought on course by the Iyer-Kohli duo with a risk-free approach.
Virat Kohli and his men can hold their heads high as they have been able to put on a strong batting performance but at the same time, lacklustre fielding efforts in two consecutive games, along with undiscerning bowling throughout the 50 overs and especially with the new balls would leave them embarrassed.
To be fair to the Indian pacers, their Australian counterparts also did not get any swing or help from the pitch. But the fact that they extracted more bounce and took the help of everything that the pitch offered by bowling slower bouncers and cutters would make the Indian bowlers do some soul-searching. They have to answer some tough questions before they head to Canberra for the final and inconsequential match of the three-match series.
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