Undaunted by the rising asking rate, Virat Kohli scurried along, unleashing his dazzling oeuvre to notch up his 17 hundred in only 61 balls | PTI
For the romantic, the first ball or the first short of an innings is always a giveaway of the unfolding action. It might be a mere block or a guarded leave, a ball that zips off the surface or maybe a gravity-defying dive. It mightn’t be anything spectacular but it immediately sets in a feel-good factor or heading-to-gallows hunch.
Hence, for the romantics among the Indian cricket fans, Rohit Sharma’s rasping cover drive off the first ball of India’s innings was an auspicious portent, a reassurance that India could chase down the gargantuan target of 351 to stave off a series surrender. Even some pragmatists would have slowly begun to believe that India can win. After all, only a fortnight ago had they surpassed a bigger tally without consuming the full quota of overs.
Their beliefs and premonitions only gathered in conviction as Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan reeled off to a start most perfect. Like practiced thespians, they settled into their assigned roles. Sharma, after his brisk start, consolidated whereas Dhawan, initially watchful, expanded the canvas of his stroke-play.
Like a veteran racer, aware of when and how to take off, Dhawan upped the gear from second to fifth in no time. He splintered the off-side with feisty cuts and blinding cover drives. His leg-side repertoire wasn’t any inferior either, as he pulled, swept and flicked the panicky Australian bowlers. Dhawan was reprieved on 19 and 56, but he hardly altered his approach.
Sharma, meanwhile, enacted the support cast to perfection, nurdling singles and ensuring that Dhawan wasn’t depraved of strike. Upon reaching his half-century, Sharma too shed his inhibitions, fetching Aaron for a six. Glenn Maxwell, too, was scythed for a brace of sixes. He departed shortly to an impetuous stroke. But their association of 178 runs in 29.4 overs had swung the match in India’s favour.
Though Dhawan too perished upon reaching his hundred, India had in Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni expert finishers. Kohli, for the nth time in his career, wonderfully navigated the chase, although they lost Yuvraj and Raina.
Undaunted by the rising asking rate, Kohli scurried along, unleashing his dazzling oeuvre to notch up his 17 hundred in only 61 balls. Such has been his uncanniness in hunting targets that it was almost preordained that he would take India home. And he did so with panache and machismo. And the context of the series makes it more special. That 78 off his 115 runs came through boundaries reflect the vitality of the knock.
His knock though laid to waste hundreds by Shane Watson and George Bailey, who had combined 168 runs off 142 balls. Watson, caught off a no-ball at 25, made the most of his fortune. It wasn’t the usual no-holds-barred approach, there were stutters and stops, but Watson’s determination prevailed.
Meanwhile, Bailey—who attached the record of most runs by any skipper in a bilateral series—was scuttling along at a pace better than Watson’s. And even after Watson’s exit, Bailey’s show continued. By the time India saw his back off, he had already made 156 splendid runs in 115 balls, but only for Kohli to take the sheen off it. As for the romantics, they have their ego bloated.