Virat Kohli was back in his familiar No.3 position in the Indian batting line-up. The Indian skipper was once again involved in a tense chase. The outcome was also familiar. Kohli (61*) blasted his 19th Twenty20 international fifty and India clinched the third and final Twenty20 International in Sydney by six wickets with two balls to spare. With the series level 1-1, India ensured that their unbeaten bilateral series run in this format since July 2017 extended into 2019 as well. Kohli was well-supported by Dinesh Karthik, who showed calmness at the other end after India threatened to throw away a blazing start set-up by Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma in their pursuit of 165.
Australia had received a boost with Mitchell Starc being included in the playing XI and both Indian openers treated the speedster with respect. Dhawan and Rohit opened up in the second over by targeting Nathan Coulter-Nile, with Rohit finding the square leg boundary and Dhawan walking across his stumps to pull a short ball to long leg. In the fourth over, Coulter-Nile was once again in the receiving end of a vicious assault as both Rohit and Dhawan hit sixes. The carnage worsened for Australia as Marcus Stoinis was hammered for 22 runs in his one over, with the left-handed Dhawan blasting a six and two fours.
India had raced to 67/0 in the sixth over before Starc, playing his first Twenty20 International since 2016, trapped Dhawan LBW for 41 off 22 balls after Australia opted for the review. Australia clawed back into the contest, with legspinner Adam Zampa breaching Rohit’s (23) defence with a quick, skiddy delivery. With both openers gone cheaply, the onus was on Kohli.
Middle overs domination
KL Rahul tried to steady the ship by lofting Coulter-Nile for a six over deep midwicket but the Australian spinners Zampa and Glenn Maxwell kept a tight check on the runs. India managed to hit only one boundary in five overs and the mounting pressure consumed Rahul, who miscued Maxwell to be caught for 14. When Andrew Tye dismissed Rishabh Pant for a golden duck, India’s unbeaten run was in danger. However, with Kohli still there, the sold-out crowd at the SCG knew something special was on the cards and the Indian skipper delivered.
Kohli broke the shackles in the 16th over by carving Tye over backward point for a four and then gloriously lofting the bowler inside-out over wide long-off for a six. The Indian skipper continued to ride the momentum and neared his fifty by clobbering Maxwell for a flat six over deep midwicket. At the other end, Dinesh Karthik showed his calmness and he ensured the contest went India’s way by launching Tye into the second tier of the stands and cracking Starc to the boundary. Kohli smashed two boundaries to seal the win in style after Australia had recovered to a good score despite Krunal Pandya’s great spell.
Krunal breaks Australia
Australia, opting to bat, started off well with Aaron Finch and D’Arcy Short stringing a solid opening partnership. Finch survived a dropped chance in Krunal’s first over as Rohit dropped the catch at long on, raising more questions on India’s fielding. However, Kuldeep Yadav sent back Finch for 28 and that ushered a period when Australia swept themselves into oblivion. Krunal got the wickets of Short (33) and Ben McDermott (0) in quick succession and he ensured Australia did not have any momentum by getting rid of Maxwell (13).
When Alex Carey holed out to Kohli for 27, Krunal achieved the best figures by a spinner in Twenty20 Internationals in Australia and his haul of 4/36 put Australia on the backfoot. Some cameos towards the end by Coulter-Nile and Stoinis got Australia past 160 but in the end, Australia were undone by the familiar sight of Kohli scoring big in a chase.