Shikhar Dhawan’s classy hundred and a quality bowling effort powered India to a 36-run victory over Australia, denying two fallen heroes a fairytale script while sounding a warning bell for their opponents in the World Cup in London on Sunday.
The legend of Dhawan in ICC tournaments continued to grow as his stylish 117 formed the cornerstone of a fantastic batting display that propelled India to a commanding 352/5.
In reply, Australia never looked like getting there as they managed only 316 in 50 overs with Steve Smith (69 off 70 balls) and David Warner’s (56 off 84 balls) half-centuries being of little consequence.
After a professional run-chase against South Africa in the opener, the second match saw the ‘Men In Blue’ burying the five-time world champions under a deluge of runs. An astounding 131 dot balls (21.5 overs) were bowled by Indian bowlers which ultimately made the difference.
Runs: 117 off 109 balls (player of the match)
It happened one match late, but the ICC-mode has been switched on by Dhawan. It was his 6th century in global ODI events (Champions Trophy / World Cup combined) and third at The Oval. He started off shakily, but once he hit the first boundary, you could see the confidence return. He battled through pain as well after being hit on the finger early on. Dhawan misses out on a perfect 10 only because he did not take the field (we would like to reserve 10s for flawless performances).
Runs: 57 off 70 balls
Provided the perfect platform for India to push ahead but fell at a time when it seemed a regular ‘Daddy 100’ was on the cards. Points deducted for falling 143 runs short of a double century, because he has set those standards. (We kid, we kid).
Runs: 82 off 77 balls
This innings was proof that even when not at his best, Kohli can score a less-than-run-a-ball 80 in ODIs. This was a scrappy innings for the most part of the match but he played one of shots of the tournament when he lofted Mitchell Starc over cover for six.
Runs: 48 off 27 balls
Normally, a bowler returning figures of 0/68 in 10 overs would be seen as not a good outing but there is more to those numbers from Pandya. With himself going for 19 runs in one over, and Kedar Jadhav hit out of the attack after just six balls, the rest of Pandya’s nine overs that went for 49 were crucial for Kohli to keep control over Australia. His batting, however, was everything Indian fans hoped it would be ahead of the tournament. Riding on a reprieve off the first ball, Pandya played the innings that was the difference between a par 320 score to a match-winning 352/5.
Batting: 27 off 14 balls
Wicket-keeping: 1 catch
A Dhoni performance that should warm the hearts of most Indian fans. With Pandya’s promotion proving to be a master-stroke, Dhoni came in at the end and provided some fireworks. That six of Starc and Kohli’s reaction to it must be seen to be believed. Struggled a bit behind the stumps with a couple of half chances being spurned and difficulties gathering the slower balls that did not carry but was not costly for India.
Batting: 11 off 3 balls
Did his job with the bat when he came out in the last over: it is never easy to get going from the word go, especially in a situation that he is not familiar with. And fielding in the deep all day, Rahul put in one hell of a shift patrolling the boundary line, saving quite a few runs in the process.
Batting: 0 off 0 balls
Steve Smith ensured that one over is all Jadhav will bowl in the match as he hit the off-spinner out of the attack with 14 runs in one over. A six and a four past long on meant Jadhav did not get the ball back in the match. Made his mark with a superb throw from the deep to run out Aaron Finch and provide a much-needed breakthrough, however.
India’s best bowler of the match. After question marks over his place in the side, Kumar made a telling contribution at The Oval, dismissing Steve Smith and Marcus Stoinis in one over at the death to kick-start Australia’s collapse. He bowled superb lines and lengths to David Warner and Finch early on, preventing Australia from getting away to a good start. It was quite the statement by Kohli after the match that Mohammad Shami will be considered only when the conditions demand an extra seamer and not as a replacement for Kumar.
For all the insistence that Kuldeep’s IPL performance was nothing to worry about, this is now becoming a slight cause of concern for India in an otherwise fantastic start to the World Cup campaign. After showing signs of getting his confidence back against South Africa, Kuldeep went back to his IPL bowling form against Australia, barely threatening the defending champions. While Australia have great players of spin in their side like Smith, the fact is that Kuldeep did not look like the wicket-taking weapon he has been in the past two years. These are still early days and the other bowlers are picking up Kuldeep’s slack so far. But the sooner he gets back into his groove, the better India will feel.
Chahal went for a few more runs than he would have liked, but it was yet another top performance from the leg-spinner as he accounted for the big wickets of Warner and Glenn Maxwell. An innings where he picked up two of the opponent’s quickest scorers is bound to go down as one to remember. Once again, that huge heart of his that everyone keeps talking about, was on display.
See Virat Kohli above. Much like India’s best batsman, the side’s best bowler did not have the best of days either and still ended up with three wickets. Bumrah started off well along with Kumar, but was taken for runs in his second and third spells but he did what he always does: find a way to take wickets.