Virat Kohli hundred sets up Indian victory
India 292 for 5 (Kohli 118, Raina 71*, Yuvraj 58) beat Australia 289 for 3 (Clarke 111*, White 89*, Hussey 69) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The target of 290 appeared to be stiff, especially when India were wobbling at 35 for 2 in the ninth over, but Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh maintained their sangfroid to get India close before the adventurous Suresh Raina sealed the win in style. Kohli, in particular, impressed. He not only lost Yuvraj in the 34th over with India still 118 runs adrift of the target but also, by then, was suffering from severe cramps and was forced to bat with a runner. If those hurdles fazed him, he didn't show it and went on to clinch the game in the company of Raina.
The chase mirrored Australia's innings to an extent. Australia had also started slowly before they consolidated, courtesy of a fine 144-run partnership between Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey, to 205 for 3 from 45 overs, before exploding in the end. Australia looted 84 runs in the final five overs with Cameron White whacking 70 in his last 24 deliveries. Australia might have felt they had enough in the bank but Kohli pulled off a cool heist.
Kohli's personal big moment came in the 42nd over when he brought up his century with a crisp square-drive and screamed with glee. And the game was all but over in the 43rd over when Kohli swung Clint Mckay for two fours and a massive heaved six over long-on. After that shot, even his limp towards square leg seemed to acquire a swagger. It was indeed a special night for Kohli who has now moved ahead of Rohit Sharma in the pecking order.
Kohli's nerves, if he had any, must have eased after Raina collected 17 from the 38th over of the innings, bowled by James Hopes. He struck three fours -a glanced boundary preceded two mows to the wide midwicket boundary - to reduce the target to 81 from 12 overs. And when Raina picked up two more fours in the 40th over, India required 66 runs from the final 10 and they did it without much fuss. Though India soon lost Kohli, who holed out to long-on, and MS Dhoni, Raina guided them home.
The chase stood out for India's calm approach. They initially chose to conserve wickets and reserved their assault for the second half of the chase. At the half-way mark they had reached 117 for the loss of the openers and required another 173 runs.
As you would expect with such an asking run-rate, Kohli and Yuvraj did play a few big shots to ease the pressure. Kohli pulled the 20-year old debutant Mitchell Starc for a four before flicking and square-driving John Hastings, another debutant, for successive boundaries. Yuvraj whiplashed Hastings over midwicket, lifted Starc to the straight boundary and swept Nathan Hauritz for another four.
Australia tried to keep it tight, with the seamers hitting the back of length and bowling as straight as possible. However, the errors in line and length started to creep in as the pressure increased, and with the spinners proving to be ineffective, Kohli and Yuvraj cruised along. The pitch had quickened up as the evening wore on and the ball started to come on nicely to the bat which also helped India's cause.
This change in nature of the wicket had helped Australia too at the end of their innings. It was ruthless violence in the end, but the Australian innings had three distinct phases. They crawled to 16 for 2 in eight overs; they then consolidated to 205 for 3 from 45, before finishing off in style.
White swung Praveen Kumar for two sixes to the straight boundary in the 48th over before he bossed Vinay Kumar in some style. There were four massive sixes against the hapless bowler spread over two overs. He cleared the front foot and walloped a full-pitched delivery to the straight boundary for the first six. The second fell into the second tier over long-on and the third was swiped over the midwicket boundary. The fourth, off the final ball of the innings, showcased his skill: It was yet another full toss and he swat-flicked it over the wide midwicket boundary.
It would be tempting to focus solely on the surge in the last five overs but it was all set up by a superb stand between Hussey and Clarke. It was Hussey who increased the run-flow with three crisp boundaries by the 10th over. An inspired Clarke soon produced the shot of the afternoon: a classy on-the-up punchy drive past Praveen that defied the slow pitch.
It was a mature show from Clarke; there might have been a temptation to try taking risks and worrying about the ideal target to set but he seemed very clear in his head about the way ahead. You felt all along the afternoon that Clarke was waiting for the batting Powerplay and he cashed in style. He crashed Vinay to the cover boundary before nearly decapitating the umpire Billy Bowden with a powerful straight drive. It was around this time that he handed the baton to White. Their efforts didn't prove enough, though.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo