Men’s ODI WC: KL Rahul, Virat Kohli carry India to six-wicket win

Chennai:  A stunning 165-run partnership off 215 balls between KL Rahul (97 not out) and Virat Kohli (85) carried India to a memorable six-wicket win over Australia to start their 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup campaign on a high at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Sunday.

In the afternoon, Ravindra Jadeja spun a vicious web of left-arm spin mastery while picking an outstanding 3-28 as Indian spinners took six wickets collectively to bowl out Australia for just 199 in 49.3 overs. In response, Australia caused early jitters in the Indian camp by reducing them to 2-3 in two overs, making it the first time three Indian batters in top four were out for ducks.

With the pressure being extremely high, Rahul and Kohli joined forces and used their extensive experience to resurrect the innings and get India on track in the chase. Kohli was also helped by a reprieve on 12 by Mitchell Marsh and kept the scoreboard moving with Rahul in a critical partnership to get India over the line, with Josh Hazlewood taking three wickets.

Australia needed to strike with the new ball to put India under pressure and Starc did what the doctor ordered by enticing Ishan Kishan to slash hard at a wide delivery and edged to first slip for a golden duck, giving the left-arm pacer his 50th World Cup scalp and the fastest bowler to do so.

Hazlewood added more misery on India by getting a length delivery to nip one back in and trap Rohit Sharma lbw for a six-ball duck. The right-arm pacer, who got in-and-out seam movement, ended the over by having Shreyas Iyer hit a short ball straight to cover fielder to fall for a three-ball duck.

With the crowd completely silent, it started to cheer when Kohli got his first runs, though he was later on beaten by Starc and Hazlewood. KL Rahul got India’s first boundary by driving an overpitched Hazlewood delivery for four, followed by Kohli bringing out straight drive off him for a boundary.

The crowd had a huge sigh of relief in the eighth over when Mitchell Marsh, running in from mid-wicket, couldn’t hold on to a top-edge coming from Kohli’s mistimed pull, giving the batter a reprieve at 12, as India ended power-play at 27/3.

Kohli then flicked off his wrists twice in the mid-wicket region off Cameron Green in the 15th over, followed by Rahul timing his late cuts perfectly to pick a brace of fours off Adam Zampa before driving through extra cover for his third boundary off the 18th over.

Kohli and Rahul would keep the scoreboard moving with their quick running between the wickets, before the former raised his fifty with a pull off Pat Cummins. Two overs later, Rahul got his half-century, followed by Kohli pulling Cummins for a boundary.

With dew also coming in, plus Zampa not getting right length, Kohli and Rahul continued to take boundaries off pacers and spinners as India inched closer to victory. After Kohli pulled straight to mid-wicket off Hazlewood and fell for 85, Hardik Pandya slammed Hazlewood for a lofted six over long-off, also the first maximum of the chase.

Rahul then danced down the pitch to loft Maxwell over long-off for six and followed it up to muscle a four over the non-striker’s head. He finished off the chase in style with a well-timed lofted six over cover and was down on his haunches as India completed a not-so-straightforward chase after a scary start.

Earlier, electing to bat first on a pitch which looked dry and little bit on the slower side, Australia were 110-2 in 27 overs, before Jadeja came in to cause havoc and get his three scalps in a span of two overs to break the back of the visitors’ batting.

Kuldeep Yadav took two wickets while local lad Ravichandran Ashwin had a scalp to his name as spinners took six wickets in their 30 overs combined at an economy rate of 3.47 and triggered an Australian collapse, with all three pacers amongst the wickets too.

For Australia, who played 173 dot balls in their innings, Steven Smith and David Warner managed to make 46 and 41 respectively. But there was no noteworthy knock from the rest of the batters until Mitchell Starc hit two fours and a six in his late cameo of 28. India now need 200 to get their campaign off to a winning start.

India struck early when Jasprit Burmah got Mitchell Marsh to prod at a short of length delivery outside the off-stump and Kohli at first slip took the catch by diving to his left, sending the batter back for a duck.

Warner and Smith latched on to every scoring opportunity whenever the Indian fast-bowlers bowled full or half-volley deliveries, though some deliveries from Siraj did stay low. The duo were severe against Hardik Pandya – taking him for 21 runs in his two overs and not letting him go away cheaply.

Warner went on the aggressive by dancing down the pitch to go inside-out against Ashwin for four, followed by sweeping Kuldeep past backward square leg for another boundary. Kuldeep eventually broke the 69-run partnership in the 17th over by tossing up a delivery to take inside edge of Warner’s attempted drive for completing a simple caught-and-bowled dismissal.

Smith and Marnus Labuschagne tried to resurrect Australia’s innings, but the accuracy and turn from the Indian spinners meant they didn’t get boundaries after the 20th over, seen from reaching their hundred in 25 overs.

Jadeja struck after a lengthy drinks break as he got to rip one past Smith’s defence and rattled his off-stump. In his next over, Jadeja pitched one outside off-stump and Labuschagne went for a slog-sweep, only to give an edge behind to KL Rahul, with the batter burning a review.

Jadeja increased Australia’s troubles when his stump-to-stump delivery coming from around the wicket trapped Alex Carey lbw. Maxwell broke a boundary drought of 73 balls by smashing Jadeja over cover for four, but in an attempt to pull a not-so-short ball from Kuldeep, his leg-stump flattened.

Australia’s innings continued to sink as Ashwin had Cameron Green slapping a short ball straight to backward point. Though Cummins played the long handle by hitting a six and four each, he didn’t last long, holing out in the deep against Bumrah. Pandya and Siraj took a scalp each in the fag end to end Australia’s innings in 49.3 overs.

Brief Scores: Australia 199 in 49.3 overs (Steven Smith 46, David Warner 41; Ravindra Jadeja 3-28, Jasprit Bumrah 2-35) lost to India 201-4 in 41.2 overs (KL Rahul 97 not out, Virat Kohli 85; Josh Hazlewood 3-38, Mitchell Starc 1-31) by six wickets

 

 

 

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