Sport

Australia v India one-day series: Bowlers again toil as Virat Kohli century leads India to another big total

Those with only a passing interest in cricket who stumbled on Sunday's third ODI live broadcast could have been excused for thinking Channel Nine has resorted to showing repeats.

For the third match in a row, India scored easily and Australia's bowlers struggled to take wickets on a pitch heavily skewed in favour of high scoring.

But, given the new benchmark for targets in one-dayers, Australia captain Steve Smith would have been content that his bowlers again conceded about a run a ball. The host's managed to restrict India's batsmen to just under 300 runs, a threshold they allowed them to breach in the Perth and Brisbane games, even though the wider expanses of the MCG made reaching the boundary more difficult.

Australia ended Rohit Sharma's streak of centuries when he was dismissed in the fifth over. It did little to hinder their scoring, however, as Virat Kohli cruised to a run-a-ball century, well supported by Ajinkya Rahane.

Given India only conceded two wickets in the first 44 overs they probably would have expected to have posted a score higher than 6-295. Their captain, M.S. Dhoni, did his best to take advantage of their wicket in hands by pounding 22 from nine deliveries at innings end.

India were not as adventurous with their strokeplay as they could have been, Dhoni aside. They did manage a selection surprise, dropping established first-choice spinner are R. Ashwin and middle-order batsman Manish Pandey in favour of two uncapped all-rounders: Gurkeerat Mann and Rishi Dhawan. The latter offered the visitors a seam-bowling beyond specialist pacemen Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Barinder Sran.

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Australia were indebted to John Hastings for limiting the damage, as he removed both Kohli (117) and Dhoni in his last two overs when bowling at the death.

Even though Hastings was the last player into the squad, his haul of 4-58 from 10 overs was enough to warrant him keeping his place in the team for the rest of the series. This could potentially be at the expense of Victorian teammate Scott Boland, who was unable to achieve consistency delivering his trademark yorkers, as he ended wicketless from nine overs, and was thrice thumped for six.

The basis of India's total was the two century partnerships involving Kohli: of 119 for the second wicket, with Shikhar Dhawan, and 109 with Rahane. The latter was far more beneficial for India, as Rahane was able to keep pace with Kohli in a way Dhawan conspicuously struggled with earlier.

Australia started strongly after sending India in to bat first, restricting the visitors to 1-17 after six overs. Kane Richardson was rewarded for his accurate start with the new ball - all but four of his first 18 deliveries were dots - by having Rohit out caught behind, nibbling outside off-stump.

Left-hander Dhawan twice found the boundary early, but that masked his problems in rotating the strike. Those two boundaries were his only scoring shots in his first 21 deliveries, which put pressure on Rohit and then Kohli to pick up the scoring slack.

While Dhawan and Kohli reached their half-centuries from consecutive deliveries, in the 24th over, Kohli's effort was far superior due to his greater efforts in finding gaps.

The departure of Rahane in the 27th over, bowled leg-stump after moving too far across his stump trying to turn Hastings into the leg-side, actually helped India. Even though the opener scored 68, including nine boundaries, he had soaked up nine overs worth of dots. By contrast, when Kohli fell in the 47th over had been held scoreless for only 43 deliveries.

All-rounder Mitch Marsh, who came back into Australia's team in place of Joel Paris, conceded two boundaries in his second over. The accurate bowling of spinner Glenn Maxwell, who conceded only 49 runs from nine overs, meant Smith did not have to risk bringing back Marsh again.

Although Kohli and Rahane were scoring at about a run a ball, Australia's bowlers managed to squeeze in enough dot-balls to prevent the Indian scoring rate from surging. It was not until the 40th over that India managed to score runs from every delivery in an over.

Given the India-dominated crowd's penchant for cheering even singles, the reaction in the 43rd overs to Kohli reaching his 24th one-day century, and seventh outside the subcontinent, was particularly raucous.

Rahane reached a deserved half-century in the 45 over but fell to the very next delivery. Steve Smith briefly held on to the catch inside the long-on boundary, before being forced to offload to the nearby Maxwell, as his momentum threatened to take him over the rope.

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