Cricket World Cup 2019: We wanted to beat Australia after they won against us at home – Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli: "If we put enough runs on the board, we back our bowling lineup to defend anything." © AFP

LONDON: India skipper Virat Kohli has derived plenty of confidence and happiness from his team’s 36-run win over Australia at Kennington Oval on Sunday, which is their second victory in a row at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.

After beating South Africa by six wickets in Southampton, India came to London, won a good toss and scored 352/5 in their overs. Shikhar Dhawan scored 117, Rohit Sharma made a patient 57, Kohli got 82 from 77 balls and there were captivating cameos from Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni as India put up their fourth-highest total at a World Cup.

Then it was over to their skilled bowlers, who didn’t allow Australia’s opener to get a blazing start and kept striking to keep the asking rate above their opponents’ grasp. The margin of defeat is 36 runs, which indicates how vital getting wickets at regular intervals was.

For Kohli, there was added motivation to beat Australia in the World Cup because of the 2-3 ODI series loss to them at . home in February-March, which came without Mitchell Starc.

“We were more motivated to win today because of the fact that we lost the series in India, being 2-0 up, and there was no Mitchell Starc, either. So him coming in makes their bowling lineup even stronger,” he said after the win. “So I think we had to be at the top of our game, and couldn’t have asked for a better game in all three departments, set the tone the way we wanted to with the bat up front, getting a very good opening partnership. I got runs, Hardik [Pandya] played outstandingly well, MS [Dhoni] played his role perfectly, KL [Rahul] struck the ball so beautifully. So from that point of view, I think we played a really good one-day game today, something that any team would want to do.

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“And yes, the results in the past, we had to make sure that against this side, we win all the moments, the crucial moments. Once you let your foot off the pedal then they will capitalise because they’re always looking to be on top of the opposition. So very, very pleased with this win.”

Equally pivotal to India’s win was how well Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled up front to David Warner and Aaron Finch. Warner, after a superb IPL this year, was kept very quiet. He made 56 off 84 balls, with only five fours. Kohli credited his bowlers for restricting the normally aggressive opener, which his counterpart Aaron Finch also identified as vital to the end result.

(FULL SCORECARD: INDIA vs AUSTRALIA, MATCH 14)

“Well, we sort of felt like they were a bit hesitant in going for the boundary option, so the communication was very simple: Bowl at good lengths but within the stumps and pitch it up, because as a batsman I know when you’re not looking for a boundary option, the last ball you want is a length ball on stumps because you have to play a good short to get a boundary,” said Kohli.

“I just felt like at that stage they didn’t want to lose wickets was the mentality that we felt, like they wanted to keep it so they could strike big in the end. But I think that was too big a total to play like that initially. So we sensed that, the bowlers sensed that, and then we just thought that the higher we take the run rate, we will get a few chances to take wickets, and then the game will go beyond them slowly. I think the communication was important from bowlers, as well, so it was both ways. It wasn’t just me speaking to them. We both had a discussion and then we executed the plan.”

Bhuvneshwar Kumar World Cup
Bhuvneshwar Kumar took three wickets in India’s 36-run win over Australia. © AFP

Astonishingly, India bowled a whopping 22 overs in dot balls. When this was brought to Kohli’s attention, he spoke of how well his bowling resources are.

“I mentioned before the game, if we put enough runs on the board, we back our bowling lineup to defend anything, and there’s a good reason why I said that, because you have two spinners in the middle overs who are always looking to pick wickets, and then you have Bhuvi, Bumrah, Hardik is bowling really well, Kedar [Jadhav] chipped in with a few overs. On an overcast day, Shami could play, as well. So you’re looking at strike bowlers through and through,” he said.

“In one-day cricket when you have strike bowlers, you will have dot balls because the batsmen really give respect to a guy who can get you out. So I think we have a really good bowling lineup, and they understand their strengths, more importantly. You just give them the ball in a situation and they know exactly what to do.

“I literally don’t have anything to plan with these guys because they do their skill so well, and they’re at the top of their game right now for sure, and I hope they can be in that mindset so that we can go along and win the tournament.”

India next play New Zealand at Trent Bridge on June 13.