ICC World Cup: Kohli-Rahul partnership powers India

Half-centuries from Virat Kohli and KL Rahul powered India's chase of 200 after the home team lost three wickets with just two runs on the board.
Indian batters during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup match between India and Australia. (Photo | Ashwin Prasath)
Indian batters during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup match between India and Australia. (Photo | Ashwin Prasath)

CHENNAI:  In a match billed as India's spin strength vs Australia's pace battery, India emerged victorious thanks to the same spinners who restricted Australia to 199. Later, a partnership of 165 runs between Virat Kohli and KL Rahul helped the hosts defeat the Pat Cummins-led side by six wickets in their World Cup opener at the MA Chidambaram stadium here on Sunday.

Set a target of 200, India almost made heavy weather of the same due to lack of application and poor shot selection early doors. Australian speedsters Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood bowled with fire to shockingly reduce India to 2 for three. Skipper Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan, and Shreyas Iyer failed to open their accounts.

From then on, Kohli and Rahul hung around for the rescue act. While Kohli enjoyed a slice of luck as he was dropped by Marsh off Hazlewood. Thereafter, Kohli put his experience to good use against all of Australia's pacers. Glenn Maxwell, introduced in the final over of the powerplay, gave away just nine runs in his first four overs.

On the other hand, Adam Zampa eased the pressure on the Indians as the leggie erred in line and length. As the partnership kept building, Cummins was running out of ideas to stop the flow of runs. Kohli's running between the wickets was immaculate as the 34-year-old ran 61 runs in the hot and humid Chennai conditions. Rahul, too, kept his patience to keep the scoreboard ticking and slowly took the game away from the Australians. At times, it was the wicket-keeper batter who took an aggressive route as he amassed his half-century in 72 balls.

Kohli's elegant knock of 85 ended in the 38th over, but by then India only needed 32 runs from 72 balls to seal the WC opener. Rahul, with help of vice-captain Hardik Pandya added those runs in just 22 balls and India registered an emphatic win by six wickets.

Earlier, India's spin trio of Ravindra Jadeja (3/28), Kuldeep Yadav (2/32) and R Ashwin (1/21) picked up six wickets among themselves to restrict Australia to 199 runs. Jadeja's familiarity with Chepauk turf came in handy as he did not give the width for the Australian batters to play the shots. Kuldeep and Ashwin played their part to perfection to reduce Australia from 110 for 3 to 199 all out, losing seven wickets for just 89 runs.

After losing Mitchell Marsh early, Steve Smith joined David Warner to stem the damage of the early loss. Hardik Pandya was brought in as early as the seventh over and gave the Aussie duo some breathing room. With the opponents negating the heat and pace well, captain Rohit Sharma had no choice but to introduce Yadav.

Warner was at ease and added a milestone to his name when he completed 1000 runs in the World Cup in 19 innings. His end came when miscued an intended cover drive straight into the hands of Yadav to be caught and bowled. Warner along with Smith added 69 runs for the second wicket. Australia experienced the death by spin in Chennai when Jadeja sent Smith, Marnus Labuschangne, and Alex Cary back in quick succession. The biggest blow for Australia in the middle overs came when Glenn Maxwell fell trying to go for an ambitious pull shot off Yadav, without judging the length of the ball, and was castled for 15. Once Maxwell fell, the lower order, mainly led by Starc (28) added 59 runs to take Australia to 199.

Brief Score: Australia 199 in 49.3 overs (Steve Smith 46, David Warner 41; Ravindra Jadeja 3/28, Jasprit Bumrah 2/35) lost to India 201/4 in 41.2 overs KL Rahul 97 n.o., Virat Kohli 85; Josh Hazelwood 3/38, Mitchell Starc 1/31) by six wickets 

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