Virat Kohli scored 92 off 107    AFP
Virat Kohli scored 92 off 107 AFP

Eden Gardens was not as benevolent to Rohit Sharma as it always is. Averaging over 100 at the venue, Rohit could gather a mere 7 runs, in which he painted an exquisite cover-drive across that familiar green canvas. The man in charge of the early inroads was Nathan Coulter-Nile, yet again. Rohit would have added another drive to his tally on another day, but the ball held its line, making the bat wobble and the ball ricochet back to the bowler. Coulter-Nile did well to get hold of it in second attempt.

Australia coupled accurate length deliveries with dreadful short ones. However, the Indians pounced on everything that required minimal effort to pierce the off-side field, though the pitch at times appeared two-paced.

Rahane had the most fun using the nature of the track to his own advantage. After losing his fellow Mumbaikar, Rahane held the fort with captain Virat Kohli. The duo dictated terms, ensuring they avoid an encore of last match s top-order cascade.

Rain fooled the weather forecasters, but the hot and humid conditions left the players exasperated. The most affected was the wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, often asking for medical attention. It is understandable that the Australian is not accustomed to the merciless heat in the subcontinent, even the peerlessly fit Kohli struggled to maintain his pace.

And to further raise the temperature and flare the tempers, the very two players were involved in a war of words.

As the uneven bounce rolled the ball into Wade s groin, Kohli exploited the pain Wade was in to steal a bye. In the next over they were indulged in exchanging words with no visible display of courtesy. It is, after all, India vs Australia. You expect nothing less.

Both Rahane and Kohli reached fifties, adding over 100 runs together. The partnership, however, would have extended had Kohli not called for a second run. Rahane, denying first, had to run (what choice did he have?) when he saw his captain already tearing down the pitch. He eventually fell short of the crease.

Australia scripted a brief comeback when Ashton Agar managed to dismember Manish Pandey s defence. From 121 for 1 India had abridged to 131 for 3.

Kohli was still at the strike. He was inching towards another moment of glory. He has already equalled Ricky Ponting s tally of ODI hundreds (30). A hundred today would have placed Kohli at the second spot, behind only Sachin Tendulkar (49).

In came Kedar Jadhav to help his skipper lift the score. With the heat already taken toll on Kohli, Jadhav dropped anchor: he collected two fours and six. Kohli, too, joined the resurgence and scored runs in abundance; but Australia managed to claw back into game, getting the better of Jadhav. That being said, the crowd erupted in joy when they saw MS Dhoni take field (this is his 300th ODI for India) that time of Indian cricket when the spectators enjoy the fall of an Indian wicket.

Giving the boisterous crowd what they had demanded, Dhoni took only two deliveries to pick up his first boundary. He shuffled outside off-stump and pulled it well past fine-leg. The moment had come; the moment fans see Kohli and Dhoni partner to annihilate the opposition. The stage was set, but the visitors sucked all limelight, dismissing the Indian superstars in quick succession: Kohli chopped one on to stumps 8 runs short of his 31st hundred, while Dhoni holed out to short-cover.

The hopes were then pinned on Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, stars of the previous match. They got going but only at a slower rate, and it was further hindered by rain interruption. Funnily, Pandya was out caught off the ball before the break. The umpire later ruled him not out given it was above the waist. The Australians, however, made sure they take the bails off to run him out.

To simplify the situation, here is what Law 29.7 (Batsman leaving his wicket under a misapprehension) says: “An umpire shall intervene if satisfied that a batsman, not having been given out, has left his wicket under a misapprehension that he is out. The umpire intervening shall call and signal Dead ball to prevent any further action by the fielding side and shall recall the batsman.”

Hence, Pandya continued batting after the rain stopped. That, if anything, did not better India’s situation. They managed only 16 runs in the last 15 balls, losing 3 wickets.

Brief scorecard:

India 252 in 49.5 overs (Ajinkya Rahane 55, Virat Kohli 92; Nathan Coulter-Nile 3 for 51, Kane Richardson 3 for 55) vs Australia.

Full scorecard