Talking points: Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni soar, Aaron Finch sinks
Virat Kohli now averages over 99 in successful ODI chases. © AFP

A match-winning hundred from Virat Kohli and a timely unbeaten fifty from MS Dhoni helped India level the three-match ODI series against Australia at Adelaide Oval on Tuesday.

Here are five talking points from the game:

1. Kohli, king of the ODI run-chase

In scoring his 39th ODI century – now ten short of equalling Sachin Tendulkar’s once-mythical 49 – India’s captain took to 99.04 his batting average in successful chases. This means that he has 24 hundreds in chases at an average of 69, comfortably the highest for batsmen with a minimum of 1,000 runs in ODIs. For Indian captains to lead in more then ten ODIs, Kohli’s average now stands at 87.82 and his win percentage has increased to 72%.

2. Dhoni: waning force or simmering flame?

Questions over Dhoni’s batting abilities in ODIs, at the age of 37, were amplified after he made 51 off 96 balls in the first ODI in Sydney. On Tuesday, the former India captain walked out at the fall of the third wicket with India’s asking rate touching 7.25. Dhoni faced five dot ball from Glenn Maxwell, which forced Kohli to switch gears and attack Jason Behrendorff and Nathan Lyon. On 12 from 24 balls, Dhoni’s first attempt at a big shot landed just short of a diving Behrendorff at deep square leg. When Kohli departed for 104, Dhoni was 25 off 34 and India needed 57 runs from 38.

In the company of Dinesh Karthik, Dhoni ran hard and then hit his first six, a big hit off Lyon. From that hit to his second six, Dhoni made 14 from 13 balls. With seven needed from six balls, he swung the first ball of the last over for six and then scampered a single to end the match.

MS Dhoni finished 55* off 54 balls as India won by six wickets
MS Dhoni finished 55* off 54 balls as India won by six wickets. © AFP

After the win, Kohli said of Dhoni’s unbeaten 55 from 54 balls: “There is no doubt that he shouldn’t be a part of this team. Tonight was an MS classic,” he said. “Only he knows what’s going through his mind. He calculates the game so well. He backs himself to hit those big hits. Hats off to him and Dinesh as well. He came in and showed the right kind of intent.”

3. Bhuvneshwar’s guile proves the difference

Before he praised Dhoni, Kohli singled out Bhuvneshwar Kumar‘s death-overs bowling as key to India chasing 299 and not 330. Indeed, in the end result Australia’s collapse of four wickets for three runs, triggered by Bhuvneshwar  in a terrific display of skill, proved definitive. Bhuvneshwar removed Shaun Marsh (131) and Glenn Maxwell (48) in his ninth over – the 48th of the Australian innings – and then claimed a third in the final over.

For a bowler who watched from the sidelines for six weeks of the Test series, Bhuvneshwar has impressed with his speed up front and clever changes of pace at the end. A crucial figure in India’s World Cup plans, these two ODIs in Australia have proven that he is on the road back to his brilliant best.

4. What’s eating Aaron Finch?

Aaron Finch’s slump was extended when he was bowled Bhuvneshwar in near identical manner as during the first ODI, the difference being that this time he was beaten when attempting a big drive. Finch made six off 19 balls, lowering his ODI batting average since November to 13.8. In T2oIs, since he smashed a record 172 versus Zimbabwe last July, he has gone 11 innings with a best of 47 while seven times being dismissed between 0 and 7. Test matches included, Finch has two fifties in 26 innings across all three formats since July 2018.

He is Australia’s captain in ODIs and T20Is, but Finch’s batting has turned him into a liability. He has now been bowled five times in his last eight ODIs with a vulnerability against the seaming ball a glaring error. Are changes on the cards before the World Cup?

Finch fails again
Aaron Finch struggled to get going before being bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar. (AFP Photo)

5. Shaun Marsh, the enigma

Dropped from Australia’s Test squad to face Sri Lanka this month after he averaged 26 against India – against the backdrop of 14 runs in four innings in the UAE – Shaun Marsh has remained a pivotal figure in ODIs. His 131 at Adelaide Oval is his fourth ODI century in eight games, and his average during this period is a superb 66.67.

His status in Tests, at the age of 35, appears at a low but as an ODI batsman, Marsh is massive to a struggling Australian line-up. His quixotic batting form drew discussions during Tuesday’s innings, with the veteran Indian TV commentator Harsha Bhogle saying on air that there are “two people who answer to the same name” while Australian commentator Kerry O’Keefe termed Marsh an enigma.