Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah star as India beat Australia in thriller
Virat Kohli scored 116 off 120 balls, his 40th ODI century, to set up victory. © AFP

Virat Kohli‘s 40th ODI century proved match-winning on a slow-and-low VCA Stadium surface on which India were bowled out for 250 in 48.2 overs, and no other batsman crossed 48, but held on to beat Australia by eight runs on Tuesday. (FULL SCORECARD: INDIA vs AUSTRALIA, 2nd ODI)

After an opening stand of 83, Australia kept losing wickets at junctures from which India surged in confidence on a tough batting track. Peter Handscomb (48) was cut off before he could do serious damage and another exceptional display of death-overs bowling from Jasprit Bumrah proved massive in keeping Marcus Stoinis (52) quiet.

Bumrah’s final spell of 2-0-2-2, which included two wickets in the 46th over, underlined his status as the No 1 bowler in ODIs and his skill at the death. Given the role of defending 11 from the last over, Vijay Shankar took two wickets to seal a thrilling win. His final three overs went for 27 runs for the addition of one wicket, but Kuldeep Yadav‘s 3/54 also played a key role. (AS IT HAPPENED: INDIA vs AUSTRALIA, 2nd ODI)

This is India’s 500th win in ODI cricket.

At the toss, after Aaron Finch opted to field, Kohli said it was a “no-brainer” to bat first while predicting that the Nagpur track would deteriorate as the day progressed. In quick time, he found himself at the crease after Rohit Sharma bagged his first ODI duck in over a year and as wickets continued to fall in clusters, Kohli called on his reservoir of experience to craft a superb 116 that has taken him to within nine hundreds of matching Sachin Tendulkar’s once-mythical record of 49.

Of Kohli’s 40 ODI hundreds, 32 have come in Indian wins. But more on that in a bit.

Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja forged Australia’s best opening stand in nine ODIs, that of 83 in 14.3 overs, but both fell to spin in the thirties. Finch’s 53-ball 37 was his highest score in six innings and he showed signs of getting back to form as he slog-swept Kuldeep for six, only to fall lbw to the wristspinner soon after.

Khawaja looked good for his 38 off 37 balls until he lazily chipped Kedar Jadhav’s low-rising offspin straight to an animated Kohli at cover. With that, 83 for no loss had become 83/2.Shaun Marsh didn’t manage a boundary during his 27-ball 16 which ended when he was excellently taken by MS Dhoni when trying to deflect Ravindra Jadeja’s left-arm spin. And when Glenn Maxwell missed a booming swipe across the stumps to a short ball fro Kuldeep that stayed low, Australia were 132/4.

Kuldeep Yadav claimed three wickets in India's narrow win
Kuldeep Yadav claimed three wickets in India’s narrow win. © AFP

Handscomb swept, reverse-swept and paddled his way to a perky 48. So often did he attempt this shot that Dhoni once moved to his left as the batsman bent down to Jadhav, but failed to hold the deflection. Handscomb was on 31 at the time. That didn’t deter him from paddling Jadhav and Jadeja for boundaries as he neared a fifty, only to fall to a terrific piece of fielding from Jadeja.

Handscomb pushed the ball in front of point and hesitantly took off, which proved a poor judgement call. Jadeja, hawk-like, swooped on the ball, collected it and nailed a superb direct hit to run out Handscomb.

Stoinis had by this stage laboured to 16 from 31 balls, and it needed Alex Carey’s arrival to bring some urgency. He hit Kuldeep for two fours, but then missed  a swipe and was bowled. With Australia needing 29 runs from 30 balls, Kohli called on Bumrah and the result was two wickets in the 46th over. Nathan Coulter-Nile was bowled when attempting to run the ball down to third man and Pat Cummins swished and got a faint nick to Dhoni. Australia had lost 3/10.

With 21 to defend off 18 balls, Bumrah bowled five dots to Stoinis in the 48th over, after which Mohammed Shami conceded nine from his final to leave Stoinis to get 11 from the last over. Kohli tossed the ball to Shankar, who had given up 13 runs from his only prior over of the innings, early in the chase.

First ball, Stoinis heaved and missed and was given lbw. He reviewed, but in vain. Shankar, after 120 balls bowled in ODIs, had claimed his first wicket. Two balls later he had a second when he yorked Nathan Lyon to end the game.

India failed to bat out their 50 overs, losing their last four wickets for 12 runs as Cummins claimed 4/29 in a superb display, but in the end Kohli’s assessment of the track proved mostly accurate and it was his century that proved definitive. Batting was definitely not easy on such a surface, and here is where Kohli once again marked out the difference in quality within this Indian team. The next best contribution was Shankar’s breezy 46, an innings that matched Kohli’s for effervescence, while most others struggled against spin.

Rohit was out in the opening over, slashing Cummins straight to Adam Zampa at third man. Shikhar Dhawan’s problems against offpin continued when Maxwell trapped him lbw for 21 in the ninth over. Next to go was Ambati Rayudu, lbw for 18 to the returning Lyon. At this stage, Kohli was 31 off 35 balls.

With Shankar he put on 81 in what proved the highest stand of the innings and the most attractive period of batting. Shankar, standing tall and using the depth of his crease very well, worked the ball off his pads to manufacture singles and the occasional boundary. He drove down the ground well, with one flowing shot off Coulter-Nile particularly eye-catching. To Stoinis’ inviting medium pace, Shankar lofted four and six in one over to speed to 40 from 36 balls. However, against the run of play, it was a firmly struck shot from Kohli that Zampa deflected off his fingers to run out Shankar at the non-strikers’ end. He made 46 off 41 balls.

This dismissal cued a wobble, as Jadhav (11) chipped Zampa to extra cover and Dhoni flashed the next one to slip for a golden duck. Jadeja (21 off 41 balls) overcame a nervous start to put on 67 with Kohli, who maintained a strike-rate above 96 despite the wickets and sluggish surface.

His 40th ODI hundred secured off 107 balls with a rasping boundary through point, Kohli was dismissed for 116 off 120 balls in the 48th over when he swung Cummins straight to deep midwicket. The end came soon, with the last three wickets falling for two runs.

Thanks to some terrific bowling, 250 proved enough.

Brief scores: India 250 in 48.2 overs in 50 overs (Kohli 116, Cummins 4/29) beat Australia 242 in 49.23 overs (Stoinis 52, Kuldeep 3/53) by eight runs