Rohit Sharma smashed his seventh century against Australia, his 22nd overall, but failed to take the team ashore as India kept losing wickets.


NEW DELHI: Rohit Sharma’s (133 off 129 balls) ton came in for a losing cause on Saturday as Australia chocked the visitors for runs and kept picking wickets at crucial junctures throughout the match, making it difficult for the tail-enders to score quickly and reach the winning point. India lost the match by 34 runs.

They never really recovered after the first three wickets fell in quick succession – Shikhar Dhawan (0), Virat Kohli (3) and Ambati Rayudu (0) – leaving India reeling at 4 runs at the loss of three wickets. Though it seemed that India was in contention when MS Dhoni (51 off 96 balls) and Sharma stitched a 137-run partnership but the future started looking bleak when the visitors lost Dhoni in a controversial lbw decision.

Sharma did play a brilliant innings but it was too much to ask from him as he was never really supported on the other end of the crease. At the post-match presentation, Kohli praised his fighting innings and said: “Rohit was outstanding and MS supported him but I thought we could have done better with the tempo of the game and we fell short. They took the game deep to give us a chance.”

Chasing Australia’s 289 runs, India was off to a horrendous start with the top order departing in the first five overs, exposing the middle order too early in the innings. Dhawan could only face a single ball from debutant Jason Behrendorff (2-39) only to get wrapped on his pads and adjudged lbw by the umpire.

Then came the world’s best batsman Virat Kohli who delivers in trying situations on most of the occasions, but except this one. Trying to flick it over mid-wicket, Kohli found fieldsman Marcus Stoinis, handing, Man of the Man, Jhye Richardson (4-26) his “special wicket”. Australian bowlers looked right on the money on most occasions extracting lateral movement off the pitch and keeping it tight.

The skipper has repeatedly shown faith in the new middle order batsman Rayudu but he too failed to steady the ship and fell on a delivery by Richardson that was sneaking on the leg side.

The old guard MS Dhoni looked resolute to hang on into the crease and it’s not every day that he extends his bat full throttle to save himself from a run out. Runs were not coming easily and the asking rate kept going up. India were scoring 2 runs every six balls before Sharma pulled Peter Siddle off for a six in the 13th over. Dhoni followed suit using his feet against Nathan Lyon to smack it over for maximum.

The Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) witnessed raining sixes as the flamboyant Sharma kept dismissing the ball from its presence with as many as six times for the maximum. His innings was also studded with 10 fours. Till the point Sharma was occupying the crease, the visitors looked well in the game to come out on top.

Just when both of them started opening their arms, Dhoni was sent back to the pavilion by the umpire on a ball that was pitched outside leg stump. The umpire gave the benefit of doubt to the bowler, Behrendorff, as India were out of reviews to opt for it.

In the process, the former captain became country’s only fifth batsman behind Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid and Kohli to complete 10,000 runs in ODI cricket. It was Dhoni’s dismissal that brought Australia completely back into the game.

“MS got out at that stage. That put pressure on Rohit. One more good partnership and we would have got close. But losing three wickets up front was the problem and Australia were professional enough not to let us back in,” Kohli added.

After Dhoni’s dismissal, Dinesh Karthik came into the crease and looked completely out of sorts as he struggled to accelerate the run rate. He was bowled by Richardson while trying to step down and pull the delivery, only to find the inside edge of the bat that went on to hit the stumps. He scored 12 runs.

Later on, with the increasing required run-rate and pressure mounting on India, Rohit tried to go over the mid-wicket for six but miscued a delivery of Marcus Stoinis and a thick top edge landed in Glen Maxwell’s hands.

Bhuvaneshwar Kumar tried to contribute through his 29 runs off 23 balls but chase at this point was too much for him as India failed to cross the finishing line and fell short by 34 runs.

Earlier, Australia’s clinical performance by their batting line-up allowed them to post a competitive 288/5. Riding on Usman Khawaja (59), Shaun Marsh (54), Peter Handscomb (73) and Marcus Stoinis (47 not out), the hosts recuperated well after a poor start.

The pick of the bowlers for India were Bhuvaneshwar and Kuldeep Yadav as both of them picked up two wickets apiece, conceding 66 and 54 runs respectively. Mohammed Shami too looked good, especially at the death overs, consistently bowling yorkers even as he refraining himself from giving too much of room to the batsmen.

Bhuvaneshwar completed his 100th scalps when he took Aaron Finch’s wicket. Finch (6) struggle with the form continues as he failed to come out good in a format that is more suited to him.

After Finch’s dismissal, opener Alex Carey (24) and Khawaja tried to avoid losing further wickets but Kuldeep struck at the right time, dismissing Carey as he was caught by Sharma at slips.

Shaun Marsh (54) and Khawaja together added a crucial 92-run for the third wicket to the scorecard before Handscomb and Stoinis upped the ante to give Australia a score to fight for.

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