MELBOURNE: Indian star Virat Kohli struck a scintillating century to help the visitors post a challenging 295 for six against Australia in the third cricket ODI here today.
Put into bat in a must-win game to stay alive in the five-match series, India lost two-time centurion Rohit Sharma (6) early only see Kohli (117) pilot the innings at the huge MCG.
Kohli, who not only got past 7000 runs in ODIs during his run-a-ball knock also became the fastest to register 24 tons in the 50-over format, got adequate support from Shikhar Dhawan (68) and then Ajinkya Rahane (50).
Dahwan was slow during his 91-ball stay, but managed to stitch a 119-run second-wicket stand with Kohli, whose well-paced innings was laced with seven fours and two sixes.
Kohli then found Rahane's company as the duo managed a 109-run third-wicket partnership to give more muscle to the Indian batting.
The visitors sprung a couple surprises in the afternoon, when they handed debuts to both Gurkeerat Singh Mann and Rishi Dhawan. Ravichandran Ashwin and Manish Pandey were excluded from the playing eleven as skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is playing his 300th international match as captain -- only Ricky Ponting and Stephen Fleming have led in more games, went in with six bowlers.
Rohit and Dhawan took first strike then, but the in-form opener couldn't replicate his centuries from the first two matches and was out caught behind off Kane Richardson (1-48) in the 5th over.
Kohli then walked to the crease, and looked fluent from the very beginning. It was important in the context of the innings as Dhawan was scratching around for his runs. While they didn't lose any more wickets, India could only reach 62/1 in the first 15 overs.
That is when the duo started pulling things back, and upped the ante. They unleashed a flurry of boundaries as the run-rate moved to five an over, and the two batsmen celebrated their fifties in the 23rd over.
Kohli got to his fifty in 51 deliveries, while Dhawan brought up his 16th ODI half-century off 76 balls. India's 100-mark came up in the 22nd over earlier, while they also brought up their 100-partnership off 120 balls.
India looked to carry on this momentum forward, but Dhawan started taking more risk than necessary in order to compensate for his many dot balls. And as a result he was bowled by John Hastings (4-58) against the run of play, walking across his stumps in the 27th over.
It was the highest second-wicket partnership for India against Australia at the MCG, beating the previous best of 101 between Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar in January 1981.
Rahane then came to the crease, and to his credit, he did not let the momentum dip. Kohli took a majority of the strike initially as his new partner rotated well. In doing so they brought up their 50-partnership off only 55 balls and then further progressed to a 100-run stand off only 105 balls.
In the 40th over, India were placed at 207 for two while Rahane got to his 15th ODI half-century -- and a consecutive one after Brisbane -- off 54 balls.
Kohli reached his century off 105 balls in the 43rd over. The two batsmen then cut loose, and Kohli especially was looking to play some big shots, when their partnership was broken in the 45th over.
Rahane was caught in the deep off Hastings, with Glenn Maxwell (0-46) and Steve Smith juggling the catch. It put brakes on the Indian scoring once again, as Kohli too was out caught, a simple one to George Bailey off cover.
Hastings was the bowler once more, and he struck again to remove Dhoni (23), caught in the deep in a bid to accelerate the scoring.
Mann (8) was bowled by James Faulkner (1-63) while Ravindra Jadeja (6 not out) and Rishi Dhawan (3 not out) were the unbeaten batsmen. Mitchell Marsh (0-12) and Scott Boland (0-63) were the other bowlers deployed.