Virat Kohli and KL Rahul hit defiant knocks to lift India from a perilous three down for two runs to a six-wicket win over Australia in their opening ICC Men’s ODI World Cup match on Sunday.
Chasing a tricky target of 200, India lost three batsmen, who all failed to score, inside two overs before Kohli (85) and Rahul (97 not out) put on 165.
Victory was secured with 52 balls to spare.
Spinner Ravindra Jadeja returned figures of 3-28 to help bowl out Australia for 199 in 49.3 overs in the 150th ODI meeting between the two cricket giants.
Australia’s fast bowlers then came out all guns blazing to rattle the Indian top-order after left-arm quick Mitchell Starc sent back Ishan Kishan for a duck in the first over.
Josh Hazlewood struck twice in the next to remove skipper Rohit Sharma lbw and then Shreyas Iyer caught at cover also for nought to silence the home crowd of 32,531.
Hazlewood nearly made it four down when he got Kohli to top-edge a delivery only for Mitchell Marsh to drop a skier. Kohli was on 12 at the time.
Kohli made the most of the reprieve as the star batsman reached his 67th ODI half-century and raised his bat to acknowledge the loud cheers.
Rahul soon reached his fifty in the 28th over as India went to 106-3 and in control.
Kohli finally fell to Hazlewood caught out at mid-wicket and walked off to standing ovation.
Rahul hit the winning six with Hardik Pandya at the other end.
“I had just taken a shower and was hoping to put my feet up for half an hour after the fielding innings, but I had to come in,” said Rahul of his unexpectedly early arrival at the crease.
“Virat said that I should play like Test cricket for a bit.”
Australia captain Pat Cummins admitted his team had been “50 runs short”.
“Facing the spinners was tough and it was the kind of wicket you had to get yourself in.”
Five-time champions Australia won the toss and elected to bat first but faltered.
Jadeja stood out in his 10 overs of left-arm spin. Fellow spinner Kuldeep Yadav and fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah took two wickets each.
Australia lost an early wicket before veteran batsmen David Warner (41) and Steve Smith (46) hit back in a partnership of 69.
Kohli made an early impact with a diving slip catch to send back Marsh, for a six-ball duck, off Bumrah.
The left-handed Warner reached 1,000 World Cup runs, passing Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar’s previous best landmark. Warner needed 19 innings to Tendulkar’s 20.
Kuldeep, a left-arm wrist spinner, broke the stand to send back Warner, caught and bowled.
Jadeja bowled Smith to deny the former captain his fifty and then struck twice in his next over including wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey for a duck to rattle the opposition batting.
Australia collapsed from 110-2 to 140-7 before Cummins hit the first six of the match, but fell for 15.
Number nine Mitchell Starc hit 28 to add some respect to the total.
With text inputs from AFP