On the eve of the T20 series opener, Virat Kohli was flexing his muscles in the nets. Such is Yuvraj Singh’s power-hitting ability, it’s not every day one overshadows him in the practice arena. In what looked like ominous signs for Australia, Kohli was the showstopper despite his senior too smashing some lusty blows.
He translated that form into a blistering innings in the match on Tuesday that left Australia gasping. With Suresh Raina taking his time to settle down, Kohli single-handedly helped India achieve the highest total in T20s internationals at the Adelaide Oval. The striking part of his performance was the ability to stick to his eye-pleasing cricketing shots and yet score freely enough to maintain a furious strike-rate.
Riding on his unbeaten 90 (55 balls), India easily defended their total of 188 for three, winning by 37 runs to go one-up in the three-match series.
With the women’s team setting the tone in the afternoon with a stunning win over the hosts, it was double joy for India on Republic Day. Harmanpreet Kaur played the role Virat did, her effort coming in a successful run chase. As their teams suffered an off-day, the local supporters who packed the ground found consolation in the form of dazzling fireworks and other festivities happening outside the stadium to mark Australia Day.
Australia were immediately on the backfoot, after Rohit Sharma burst the Shaun Tait bubble. The fast bowler attempted to test the openers with bouncers, but it was he who was floored by Rohit’s counter-attack. The opener was unfazed by the 150-plus readings from the speed gun that were flashing on the stadium screen, and took the bowler apart. In two overs, Tait had conceded 21 runs without a wicket, eventually finishing with figures of none for 45.
It was the seasoned Shane Watson’s pace variations that put the brakes on India, the all-rounder removing Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan in quick succession. But Kohli’s arrival set the cat among the pigeons. He had an answer to everything skipper Aaron Finch threw at him as he treated the bowlers with disdain.
At the other end, Raina was struggling to find his rhythm but felt no pressure with his partner in top gear. Raina’s wicket off the first ball of the last over saw more misery heaped on the home team as MS Dhoni walked in to show his ruthless side to James Faulkner, smashing nine off three balls.
Except for debutant Hardik Pandya’s nervous effort in the first over, bowling 11 balls with five wides and conceding 19, India were more or less in control in bowling. Dhoni’s tactics of opening with the spin of R Ashwin backfired but once Jasprit Bumrah came on, normal traffic resumed.
Continuing his fairytale start, Bumrah cramped the batsmen with his natural incoming deliveries. He struck the big blow by having David Warner hitting wildly to mid-on. The most impressive was the control he showed in bowling yorkers, cleaning up Faulkner and Cameron Boyce to finish with three for 23.
Ashwin returned in the middle overs and was in his element bowling with Ravindra Jadeja, both picking up two wickets each. Kohli’s impact was not just visible in batting. While he seemed to cross the line with his send-off of Steve Smith, his enthusiasm and aggression in the field rubbed off on his teammates. What was most heartening was that senior pros Ashish Nehra and Yuvraj were equal to the task in fielding, and picked up difficult catches.
It seemed like a perfect start to India’s preparation for the World T20.