Kohli forces Australia to run for cover

Virat Kohli smashed 115 off 66 balls

Virat Kohli smashed 115 off 66 balls

Rohit Sharma began the chase with a four.
Did look like a good omen. For the right-hander and opening partner Shikhar Dhawan were going great guns, summoning fours and boundaries at will. Glenn Maxwell did them a favour by dropping Dhawan on 19. They cashed in, adding 178 runs for the first wicket in a jiffy. Aaron Finch then sent down a half-tracker that, Sharma miscued, with the ball in James Faulkner’s hands in deep midwicket.

A minor detail. They were chasing 351 for a win.

No butterflies. As Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli continued the onslaught, as George Bailey realized that his opponents were staging a counter attack. Dhawan (102) brought up his hundred, celebrating with a fist pump that, after dropping his bat. One ball later, he exposed his stumps, in an attempt to clear the fine leg fence. India 234/2.

Panic is a word that doesn’t exist in Kohli’s dictionary, as he picked the gaps with ease, with the shots flowing all around the park. The half-century came off the 31st delivery he was facing, with Xavier Doherty and Mitchell Johnson bearing the brunt. The gods probably felt that life wasn’t fair, and they allowed Johnson to provide the twist in the tale.

Short ball to Suresh Raina. The batsman brought out the pull, missed, as the ball ended up in Brad Haddin’s hands. He had to walk off as umpire Nigel Llong gave him out. Two balls later, the ball managed to sneak through Yuvraj Singh’s defence as Australia came back into the game. India 290/4. 60 runs needed from 42.

No problem.

MS Dhoni (25) joined Man-of-the-Match Kohli (115) and the two soaked in the pressure, without showing it. Kohli went after Faulkner to bring up his 17th hundred off 61 balls, third-fastest by an Indian. He kept his foot on the gas, turning the heat on Shane Watson in the penultimate over. Needing six from the final six deliveries, Dhoni provided the finish touch as India won by six wickets with three balls remaining.

It didn’t start that way at the VCA stadium in Nagpur.

Earlier, tons from George Bailey (156) and Shane Watson (102) powered Australia to an imposing total of 350/6, their fourth 300+ score in the series. After being put into bat by the hosts, the duo got together, after openers Phillip Hughes (13) and Aaron Finch (20), with the score yet to cross the first milestone of 50.

Then came the no ball.

Watson hit a delivery from Ravindra Jadeja, a tame shot that comfortably ended up in Rohit Sharma’s hands. The batsman walked off, only to be recalled by the umpire after it came to light that Jadeja had bowled a front foot no ball. To rub salt onto his wounds, Bailey was caught off the free hit. After a brief lull, in-form Bailey and Watson decided to accelerate. To be fair to them, the Indian bowlers helped them free their arms.

The spinners were not spared, as the sixes began to rain, nine of them. Amit Mishra was offering flight, but was very slow in the air. Bailey used his feet, while Watson swung hard, as Dhoni started talking to his bowlers. Short deliveries didn’t help either, as Bailey managed to pull off the pull stroke with ease. The Indian skipper understood what was happening and turned to Mohammad Shami for over no.34. Powerplay time for Australia.

Shane Watson creamed three fours to bring up a century. Then came the dreaded gap between bat and pad, and the right-hander had to walk back after making 102. Glenn Maxwell’s (9) dismissal made no difference to Captain Bailey as he continued to punish the bowling. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, paid the price, getting smashed for three fours in over no.38.

He soon brought up his century, and that gave him the license to cut loose. With Adam Voges (44) for company, Bailey helped Australia cross 300, and hung around till the final over, before being dismissed by Ravindra Jadeja. The left-armer provided another déjà vu moment, having Voges caught and bowled. Off another no ball.

Jadeja managed to pick up Mitchell Johnson, off a subsequent delivery. But there was nothing to celebrate for they had allowed the Kangaroos to score 350/6.

First Jaipur. Now Nagpur. 701 runs scored. Four centuries. The second successful 350+ run chase for India in the series. The batsmen will rule thanks to the new rules.

God save the bowler. Please.

2-2. What will happen in Bangalore?

Cricket Infographic | Top Scores by Australia batsmen against India in ODIs.


Finch stuns England with blazing 156

Australia 248 for 6 (Finch 156) beat England 209 for 6 (Root 90*) by 39 runs

Aaron Finch smashed his first T20 international hundred, England v Australia, 1st T20, Ageas Bowl, August 29, 2013

Aaron Finch smashed his first T20 international hundred, England v Australia, 1st T20, Ageas Bowl, August 29, 2013

Whether Australia can produce young batsmen who are able to occupy the crease in Test cricket remains up for debate. That they can produce batsmen who give it an almighty thump there is no doubt. Aaron Finch, the 26-year-old Victorian, ransacked England’s bowling with an eye-popping world record 156 as Australia secured their first victory in any format for 200 days.

It was a ferocious display of hitting from Finch, who had six previous T20 caps, as he tore England’s attack to shreds with a brutal display, in the process going well past Brendon McCullum’s 123 as the highest score in an international Twenty20. Australia’s eventual 248 for 6 was the second-highest total in a T20 international – and the highest in a match involving two Test nations – only Sri Lanka’s 260 against Kenya was out of reach and for a while it appeared they may cross that landmark too.

A couple of weeks ago in the Friends Life t20 quarter-final there was 200-plays-200 match and the consistency of the one-day pitches at the Ageas Bowl deserves much praise – 457 runs in 40 overs is value for money, even if to watch such a boundary-fest all the time would dull the senses. But to chase 249 would have bordered on miracle territory. England, not surprisingly, could not get close – although did pass 200 for only the fourth time in a T20 – despite Joe Root’s entertaining 90 off 49 balls. Tellingly, perhaps, England could only manage five sixes to Australia’s 18.

Fourteen of those came off Finch’s bat, another of the records that he broke during the onslaught. He began with a six first ball, picked up effortlessly off Steven Finn, and it was a theme that would continue throughout. Each of Finch’s landmarks came up with a six; his half-century, from 26 balls; his hundred, off 47, beating McCullum’s record, and his 150.

He was on track to beat Richard Levi’s 45-ball hundred against New Zealand, in Hamilton, as the fastest on the international stage but after reducing himself to a couple of singles had to settle for second spot when he launched his 47th delivery, from Stuart Broad, for another six. He was the first Australian to make a Twenty20 international hundred and it took him just 13 more deliveries to power past 150. By then, it had long since stopped being an even contest.

The bowlers had no answers, although not for the first time there was an absence of yorkers – anything fractionally off target was dispatched over the boundaries with strength, timing and, occasionally, some finesse; although this was not an innings of deft touch and placement. Finch’s sixes over the off side, one struck as he slid outside leg stump, were perhaps the most breathtaking.

Picking through the wreckage of England’s figures may seem a rather pointless task, but there are a couple of overs that stand out. Root’s only over cost 27 – he made the mistake of conceding a single to Shaun Marsh first ball – and Danny Briggs, on his home ground, was taken for 23 in his last, all by Finch. Following on from Martin Guptill’s huge innings in the one-day international here earlier in the season, this is not a favourite ground for England at the moment.

The only England bowler to have an economy rate in single figures was Jade Dernbach, which itself will bring surprise from many. He finally removed Finch and also dumbfounded Shane Watson with a back-of-the-hand slower ball after his 37 off 16 balls, in a stand of 99 in seven overs, had gone almost unnoticed.

Finch and Marsh had added 114 in nine overs for the second wicket having come together early following David Warner’s bizarre dismissal. Swinging with all his power, he top edged Broad’s second ball and, in the process, lost his bat which flew towards short fine-leg while Jos Buttler settled under the catch. Warner then had to walk back to collect his bat from an obliging England player who had picked it up. It was the high point of the innings for England.

But the crowd had another moment to savour. The opening over of the chase, bowled by the much-missed (at least by the England supporters) Mitchell Johnson, cost 17 and included two wides and three boundaries. Johnson, though, recovered from those early problems by trapping Michael Lumb lbw and then having Eoin Morgan caught at point while he touched 93mph on the speed gun.

But Josh Hazlewood created the most physical damage. Root needed treatment for a cut lip after a short ball from Hazlewood squeezed between his peak and grille. Warner, who had come close to inflicting something similar earlier in the tour, was the first Australian to go up to Root who, after a few minutes, did not seem overly troubled by the blow as he notched a 29-ball fifty and he later took 16 off Johnson’s last over much to the joy of the fans who stayed on to the bitter end.

In the seventh over there was also a significant moment. Fawad Ahmed, the legspinner, delivered his first international over. It went for 10 and his four overs ended up costing 43. It was not really an evening to be a spinner. His story remains a remarkable one but, for one night at least, it was trumped.