Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Kohli became the fastest cricketer to score 17 ODI centuries
India opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan and vice-captain Virat Kohli kept the national team’s hopes of winning the seven-match ODI series against Australia alive as they both registered centuries to make a mockery of the baggy greens’ total of 350 in the sixth ODI in Nagpur.
While Dhawan and Kohli should be hailed for their match-winning knocks, Australia captain George Bailey and all-rounder Shane Watson deserve just as much credit as well as they both smashed centuries as well.
India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and elected to field first.
His decision looked to work in India’s favour as Australia opening batsman Phillip Hughes was caught out off the bowling of Bhuvneshwar Kumar for just 13 runs.
Hughes’ opening partner, Aaron Finch, failed to last much longer as he was clean bowled by Ravichandran Ashwin for 20.
With Australia struggling at 45/2, Watson and Bailey came to the rescue with a fantastic 168-run partnership, during which Watson recorded his ninth ODI century and Bailey registered yet another half-century before Watson was cleaned up by Mohammed Shami for 102 off 94 balls, which included 13 boundaries and three sixes.
All-rounder Glenn Maxwell failed to produce any magic today as he was caught out off the bowling of Ashwin for only nine runs.
Bailey and Adam Voges amassed a quickfire 120-run partnership, during which Bailey blasted past his second ODI century and the 150-run mark before his fabulous innings finally came to an end on 156.
Bailey’s career-high knock of 156 came off 114 deliveries and included 13 boundaries and an incredible six maximums.
The Australian captain also became the first cricketer to surpass 1000 ODI runs in 2013.
Voges finished unbeaten on 44 off 38 balls, which included five boundaries, as Australia posted a mammoth 350 runs at the end of their 50 overs.
Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja picked up two wickets apiece, while Kumar and Shami both chipped in with one wicket each.
Chasing a massive total of 351 to win, India got off to a perfect start as their opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Dhawan put together an immense 178-run, during which both batsmen brought up their half-centuries, before Sharma was caught out off the bowling of Finch for 79.
Sharma’s wonderful innings of 79 came off 89 balls and included seven boundaries and three sixes.
Dhawan was able to bring up his fourth ODI century before being cleaned bowled by James Faulkner.
Dhawan’s spectacular knock of 100 came off 102 deliveries and included 11 boundaries.
Kohli meanwhile registered his half-century during a 56-run partnership with Suresh Raina before Raina was caught behind off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson for 16 runs.
Just three balls later, all-rounder Yuvraj Singh was on his way back to the pavilion after completely misreading Johnson’s delivery, which ended up splattering his stumps all over the place.
With India struggling to keep up with the required run rate, Kohli and Dhoni came together and amassed an unbeaten 61-run partnership, during which Kohli recorded his 17th ODI century, as India clawed their way over the finish line with three balls to spare.
Kohli finished on 115 off just 66 balls, which included 18 boundaries and a six, while Dhoni remained undefeated on 25 off 23 deliveries, which included two boundaries.
Thanks to his knock, Kohli became the second cricketer to score 1000 ODI runs in 2013.
He is also the fastest player in the history of the game to reach 17 ODI tons, which he accomplished in 58 fewer innings than former India captain Sourav Ganguly, who previously topped the list.
Furthermore, there have been 65 sixes hit in this series so far, which is a new record for a bilateral ODI series.
The previous record came during the New Zealand and West Indies series in 2012, where 62 maximums were struck.
Johnson was the most successful Australian bowler with two wickets, while Faulkner and Finch both snapped up one wicket apiece.
Bailey, whose 156 was the second-highest score by a captain in a losing ODI effort after Ricky Ponting’s 164 against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2006, was fuming that his side had allowed India to chase down 350 once again.
“It is disappointing (that we lost),” he said. “Virat played an unbelievable knock. Still a beautiful batting wicket so you dont see many batters complaining about it. We needed to find early breakthroughs.
“You can always do things differently, that never changes, win or lose, but we fought our way back into the game really well. We made them hit really good shots and when a guy is batting well that is all you can do. (When asked about the fact he has scored the highest by an Australian against India) But we are losing mate. If you are a spectator you will be loving this (high-scoring matches) so we are really looking forward to Bangalore.”
Dhoni was pleased to have evened up the series at 2-2, but questioned whether scoring 350 runs was becoming the “new 280, 290 or 300”.
“I think its something we need to think about (about the fact that so many high run chases have been achieved of late),” he said. “Is 350 the new 280, 290 or 300? With the new bowlers they are mostly getting smashed. Even the fast bowlers are bowling with their third man up and fine leg up. Not sure where its going but if we are chasing like this it is not going to be good for the long-term health of the game. Only seeing boundaries and sixes for seven hours?
“We knew a bit of dew will come later, and now it is slightly easy as we can break down the game at intervals. We can evaluate after the 30-over mark as to what we need to do and what we can achieve. We were evenly placed. I think Shikhar and Rohit batted really well, and Shikhar got a century, but for Rohit it was one of those days when you can’t find the gaps and he absorbed the pressure so well.
“Yes I think Virat was brilliant, the reason being that as the ball got old he was counterattacking and maintaining a good position when going for the big shots. He made it look easy and the way he took pressure off the batsmen was amazing. Its always about taking the pressure off the new batsman. Bangalore is known for its big runs so not sure how much we will need to chase or how much we have to set to chase over there.”
Kohli was named Man of the Match for his sparkling century, and he said: “That was the plan I guess (when asked about going about the chase), with Rohit and Shikhar setting the platform. Shikhar was getting a bit of cramp and it was important that one of us went through to the end. I took some risks early on to attack the bowlers.
“I thought I should let Shikhar bat through, and then once he got out, I thought I should finish the game. When Mitch came back on to have a bowl, it helped to have MS at the other end. He told me that we had wickets and we need to go after him. I then went after him and it was all a calculated risk. I had confidence in my ability and backed myself.
“I like bating under lights, as I have said before, and if you have a target on board its always easy to analyse how many runs you need and how to go about it. Yeah I can’t wait to play in Bangalore. Bangalore has always been a great wicket for both the batsmen and bowlers. With both teams levelled at 2-2, its exciting that the series is going down to the wire in the final match.”