Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni cancel out Shaun Marsh hundred as India level series
Virat Kohli's 104 from 112 balls led India towards victory. © Getty

An outstanding – aren’t they all, really? – century from Virat Kohli and a cool unbeaten half-century from MS Dhoni trumped a very fine hundred from Shaun Marsh as India levelled the series with a tense six-wicket win over Australia in the second ODI at Adelaide Oval on Tuesday.

Chasing a target of 299 that owed significantly to Marsh’s 131 from 123 balls, India won with four deliveries to spare. Kohli chalked up a 39th ODI century to move within 10 of Sachin Tendulkar’s once-mythical mark of 49, while Dhoni stepped up with a vital 55* from 54 balls and Dinesh Karthik injected a very crucial 25* off 14.

This innings elevated Kohli’s batting average in successful ODI chases to over 99.04, a phenomenal statistic for a man playing his 218th game. The man with the marginally better average of 99.85, Dhoni, hit the winning runs to remind his critics of what he can still do.

Only twice have India ever successfully chased a higher total in ODIs in Australia. In the end result, Australia’s collapse of four wickets for three runs, triggered by Bhuvneshwar Kumar in a terrific display of late-overs bowling, proved pivotal. In levelling the series 1-1, the world’s second-best ODI team – as per the ICC rankings – proved once more that they are among the favourites for this year’s World Cup in England. (FULL SCORECARD: INDIA vs AUSTRALIA, 2nd ODI)

Australia bowled well in defence of 298/9, but were outplayed by their nemesis, Kohli. The captain strode out at the fall of Shikhar Dhawan for 32 from 28 balls in a stand of 47 with Rohit Sharma, who overcame a stifling spell from Behrendorff – he faced 14 dots from him – to get to 43 before departing. Aaron Finch employed two catching midwickets for Kohli in an attempt to replicate his dismissal from Sydney. Kohli resisted the urge to whip across the line, in the process making a conscious attempt to push into the offside. As soon as one of the catchers was removed, Kohli caressed a boundary between mid-on and the stumps.

Ambati Rayudu helped put on 59 with Kohli, scoring 24 off 36 balls until he tried to launch Glenn Maxwell for six and instead found deep midwicket. It was an unconvincing innings from Rayudu, in which he hacked and stabbed without ever looking settled.

When Dhoni walked in, India’s asking rate was 7.25 per over. Kohli had 53 to his name, off 69 balls. Dhoni faced five dots from Maxwell, and immediately Kohli switched modes to crack Behrendroff past point for four and then slam him over long-on for six. Kohli 68 off 77 balls, India’s asking rate touching 7.44. Nathan Lyon was cut for four and lofted for six imperiously, putting Kohli into the eighties.

On 12 from 24 balls, Dhoni’s attempt to pull Siddle while on the move landed agonisingly short of a diving Behrendorff at deep square leg. On 96, Kohli slashed Siddle and let out a roar of disgust when Handscomb covered ground excellently to allow just a singe. On 97, Kohli got an outer edge that flew to short third man, which meant he could not retain strike.

A quick single from Dhoni, the ball dropped at his feet, got Kohli back and he duly raised his 39th ODI hundred with a clip for two. The celebrations were short-lived, for on 104 Kohli found Maxwell at deep midwicket.

The asking rate crept up, but Dhoni responded by hitting Lyon with the turn for six. Richardson bounced Karthik who pulled for four between two fielders. Stoinis went short too and winced as Karthik swatted four more. Quick running reduced the asking for India to 16 from 12 balls, which was achieved without fuss. A six for Dhoni off the first ball of the last over levelled the scores and gave him his fifty, and next ball the match was over.

Questions have been asked, rightfully, of Dhoni’s impact in ODIs. This was ultimately a match-winning knock, but subtract Kohli’s genius and it would not have been possible.

Shaun Marsh held up one end for Australia brilliantly.
Shaun Marsh held up one end for Australia brilliantly. (Image: CA)

Kohli’s exceptional hundred shoved comfortably into the background Marsh’s century, which saw him drive half-century stands for the second, third, fourth and fifth wickets. Finch won the toss again but failed to make an impact in his primary vocation, bowled for 6 when trying to belt Bhuvneshwar over mid-on to lower his ODI batting average since November to 13.8. Four deliveries later, his opening partner Alex Carey was undone by a sharp bouncer from Mohammed Shami. 

The ODI debutant Mohammed Siraj replaced Shami and began by feeding the left-handed pair of Khawaja and Marsh on the pads, with his second all clipped by the former for four and the sixth nudged past mid-on by Marsh for three. Siraj conceded 34 in four overs, his final going for 13 with each batsman swatting a boundary.

Marsh collected his half-century off 62 balls, the result of smart batting. He didn’t commit to playing backwards or forwards, instead relying on quick reflexes to bunt fuller balls down the ground for singles or bring out the horizontal bat shots in a flash. He added half-century stands with Khawaja (21), Handscomb (20) and Stoinis (29) before Maxwell brought some urgency to the innings with a breezy 48.

Marsh raised his seventh ODI hundred off 107 deliveries and with eight overs remaining, India needs to try and control the damage. Maxwell flat-batted Kuldeep Yadav for six, then Marsh reciprocated with a dance down the track to send the wrist-spinner off with figures of 0/66 in his ten overs – his most expensive wicketless spell in 35 ODIs.

Bhuvneshwar extracted Maxwell and Marsh in his ninth over, ending a stand worth 94 in 65 balls and allowing just three runs. Shami removed Richardson and a fine running catch by Kohli at deep cover gave Bhuvneshwar his fourth, before the innings ended with Lyon hitting a four and a six.

Brief scores: India 299/4 in 49.2 (Kohli 104, Dhoni 55*) beat Australia 298/9 in 50 overs (Marsh 131, Maxwell 48, Bhuvneshwar 4/45) by six wickets