So where do we start: The 359 runs India’s bowlers conceded or the three more their top three batsmen notched up? How about looking at the manner in which Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli decimated the Australian attack and deflated their psyches beyond repair!
At the Sawai Mansingh Stadium here on Wednesday, India registered their highest successful chase in ODIs to level the seven-match series 1-1. And they did it in just 43.3 overs with nine wickets intact.
If Dhawan (95, 86 balls, 14x4) and Sharma (141, 123 balls, 17x4, 4x6) set the tone for the memorable evening under lights, then Kohli just decided to have the cake all by himself with a merciless century in no time. His 52-ball assault happens to be the fastest by an Indian in ODI cricket.
In all, he smashed eight fours and seven sixes to easily outdo Virender Sehwag’s 60-ball effort against New Zealand in Hamilton in March 2009.
In short, a small matter of two partnerships –– 176 and an undefeated 186 –– left the Aussies numb beyond comprehension. So reassuring was the display and so refreshing the approach that it made many forget that India’s bowling attack was treated similarly just a few hours earlier.
Dhawan has been in some form of late and this was not the first time Kohli had pulled off a coup (remember Hobart and Dhaka?). But the biggest plus of the day was the way Sharma got the ageing monkeys off his back with a purposeful and, probably, career-changing innings. The hundred was only his third in ODIs and first since, yes, back-to-back ones in Zimbabwe three years ago. And when he got there, the relief and swear words were there for all to see and lip-read.
Sharma and Dhawan were on the job right from the word go, collecting 69 from the first 10 overs and a further 59 from the next. Apart of Brad Haddin dropping a steepler to give Dhawan a life, the duo gave no chances.
Dhawan was dismissed against the run of play when he edged James Faulkner to the wicketkeeper, but his departure made no difference whatsoever. Kohli was on the money and raced to his fifty off just 27 balls. Sharma did suffer from cramps and lay flat on the ground for a few minutes, but he recovered well enough to get to three figures and beyond.
Earlier, the inherent cluelessness in India’s bowling ranks was evident. Fours: 36. Sixes: 12.
Fifties: 5. Run rate: 7.19. These numbers sum up Australia’s belligerence. What they don’t depict is how bad our attack fared. Ishant Sharma and R Vinay Kumar repeated the blunders they’d committed the other day before the spinners made matters worse by following in the pacers’ footsteps. The outcome: Australia piled on no less than 359/5 on a pitch that had decent bounce and aided significant turn.