Ranchi, Mar 9: There hardly goes a day when Virat Kohli is not compared to Sachin Tendulkar, but in the Ranchi ODI he was a little more like Tendulkar: he scored an imperious century but ran out of support in a chase of 314, much like Tendulkar used to. Kohli scored his 41st century but the hosts fall short of 32 runs.
Australia spread out the scoring duties more: Usman Khawaja scored his maiden ODI century, Aaron Finch brought up his first fifty in 22 limited-overs international innings, and Glenn Maxwell scored 47. Wrist spinners continued to play a significant role: Kuldeep Yadav's three wickets ensured there was no finishing kick in Australia's innings, and Adam Zampa's three sealed the match for Australia, including Kohli's wicket when he was on an absolute roll.
Kohli scored 123 of India's first 219 runs on a pitch that had become slow and started to take a turn about 30 overs into the game, and he single-handedly gave India a chance in the chase. India decided to chase because they expected a lot of dew; while the pitch did begin to skid on a little bit in the second half of the chase, there wasn't much dew to help India.
From 27 for 3, Kohli and MS Dhoni took India to 86 only for Zampa to bowl Dhoni. Kohli and Kedar Jadhav took India to 174, but again Zampa intervened with Jadhav's wicket. Kohli, though, kept getting better and better, the crowd kept getting louder, Australia burnt a review, the game seemed to be slipping away, and then Zampa castled Kohli. India still needed 95 off 75, which proved too much despite Vijay Shankar's 32 off 30.
India were forced to introduce spin sooner than they would have liked, and both Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep were attacked early. The biggest assault came against Jadhav, who has become a bit of a headache for the best of the batsmen with his unusual trajectory and pace. Before this game, Finch had faced only 13 deliveries off Jadhav, scoring 11 runs. Here he got stuck in the first ball, launching him for a six over wide long-on. Two more came in Jadhav's next. It was the end of Jadhav for an economy rate of 16, the worst of his career. The score at the point was 111 in 17 overs, and Finch - 58 off 53 - had overtaken Khawaja.
India were now struggling for options. Thankfully Shami came back, but Vijay and Jadeja were still left with a lot of overs to bowl. Khawaja took a shine to Vijay, and Kuldeep too went for a few with the ball still coming on. The first wicket, though, fell to Kuldeep, denying Finch a century. A ball-tracking error meant we will never know if Finch was right in reviewing the lbw call. Maxwell made sure the run rate didn't suffer.
Khawaja fell just after getting to his hundred, pulling Shami straight to midwicket, but the big wicket came in the 42nd over. Shaun Marsh punched Kuldeep wide of extra cover, but Jadeja somehow got a hand to it. Then he slid and turned, took a moment to choose which end to go to, and then sent the rocket out. It would still not have been enough if Dhoni had done the conventional collection. He just coolly deflected the ball onto the stumps to catch Maxwell short. This was a rare moment of brilliance on a day that India were woeful with their ground fielding.
Kuldeep made the most of the new batsmen and the slowness in the pitch to thwart Australia's finish with the wickets of Marsh and Peter Handscomb in the 44th over. Only 69 came in the last 10 overs, but it could have been worse if not for some smart batting from Marcus Stoinis and Alex Carey. They gave themselves some time to get used to the pace of the pitch before managing 38 of the last four overs.
Despite that underwhelming finish, Australia knew they had given themselves a great chance on this pitch. Their fields said as much. There was no slip at the start of the innings; the catching men were in front. Pat Cummins bowled cross-seam with the new ball, bashing the hard length and letting the pitch do the rest. Maxwell flew to his right at point to send back Shikhar Dhawan, and Cummins' accuracy accounted for Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu.
Kohli, though, was batting on a different pitch. A special batsman, at the peak of his powers, eliminated the conditions with some exquisite strokeplay. He needed support at the other end, but Zampa kept chipping away. The asking rate kept climbing even as Kohli and Dhoni repaired the innings. Dhoni was 26 off 41, the asking rate 7.35 for 31 overs, when he tried a big hit off Zampa but misread the length and played on. The Kohli-Jadhav partnership was quicker and longer, but Jadhav continued playing the sweep off Zampa despite getting beaten on his two previous attempts.