1. India 252 (Kohli 92, Rahane 55, Coulter-Nile 3-51, Richardson 3-55) beat Australia 202 (Stoinis 62*, Smith 59, Bhuvneshwar 3-9, Kuldeep 3-54) by 50 runs

Australia have gone 2-0 down in their one-day international series against India after collapsing in Kolkata and extend their woeful streak away from home where they have lost 10 out of their last 12 overseas encounters. Set 253 for victory, the visitors lost their last eight wickets for 117 runs with a hat-trick to left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav , first one in ODI for India after 1991,sealing Thursday’s match at Eden Gardens,the ‘mecca’ of Indian Cricket. India,reclaiming the ‘numero uno’ status with this win, will be aiming to take an unassailable lead the series in the next ODI at Indore  on September 24, while it’s a do-or-die situation for the Kangaroos.

New-ball swing; awkward, hit-the-deck seam; a pair of wristspinners turning their stock ball in opposite directions; a hustling, bustling, bouncer-happy allrounder: Seldom has an Indian ODI attack contained this much variety. Going into the break setting a very modest target of 253 in a two paced Eden Gardens’ track, Kohli and co. might have fancied their chances in the fact that floodlit Eden track may help Indian bowlers eventually and they didn’t disappoint either. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah moved the ball both ways, and kept asking the openers uncomfortable questions, mostly in the corridor of ‘uncertainties’. It just happened to be a day when one of them, Bumrah, would keep beating the edges and shaving the paint off the stumps while the other, Bhuvneshwar, first clattered the top of Hilton Cartwright’s off stump and kissed David Warner’s outside edge before the talismanic player could get his footwork right and all of a sudden it was 9/2.

Then came the only substantial partnership of the innings; which, while it lasted, threw a bit of a scare into India. A short spell of rain, which had interrupted India’s innings for 14 minutes, and a bit of dew had combined to liven up a dry pitch and give India’s spinners extra grip; as well as, that it had quickened up an already lightning outfield. With Steven Smith batting like he would have wanted to, in his 100th ODI, and Travis Head timing the ball quite well, the third-wicket pair added 76 at more than a run a ball. Yuzvendra Chahal had commanded respect from both batsmen, troubling Head in particular with his leg breaks, cramping him for room occasionally and having one loud lbw shout turned down. After all this nice combat between bat and ball, it was a mere full-toss that broke the partnership, Head flicking straight to short mid-wicket gifting the leggie his first scalp. Glen Maxwell(14) tried to steady the ship along with his captain heaving Kuldeep for two maximums in an over. But his cameo was cut short as he was foxed by a well-flighted delivery of Chahal, missing the line completely, while MSD completed a smart stumping as the ball deflected Glen’s pad when he tried to charge down the wicket. Australia’s chances looked deeply weakened as Smith, their biggest hope, holed out to Jadeja,  leaping onto a rather difficult chance at deep midwicket, of a cross seam bouncer from Pandya. Australia’s score read 138/5 at that time.

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3 overs later, the Aussies were 8 down, with history being created, as Kuldeep Yadav, the young chinaman bowler had achieved a feat that no Indian could for the last 26 years in ODIs; a hat-trick. Chetan Sharma had done it  in 1987 World Cup and Kapil Dev in 1991 against Sri Lanka and no one had done it again until the chinaman bowler ambled up to bowl the 33rd over of the innings. First Mathew Wade dragged one harmless looking delivery from 6th stump onto the stumps and then Ashton Agar was pinned in front of the stumps by a loopy Yorker-like delivery. The third ball i.e the hat-trick ball was one delightful piece of work from the  rookie as it was perfectly flighted to bring Cummins forward and took a wrong turn to attain a thick edge onto the safe hands of MSD. Incidentally the last ODI hat-trick was also in front of the same, old, huge Kolkata crowd!

While this was going around ,the only Aussie who stood his ground and gave Indians a scare was Marcus Stoinis. Australia, after that hat-trick over, needed 105 to win, and had only two wickets in hand. They did, however, still have Marcus Stoinis at the crease who made his heroics go noticed when he dragged Aussies to the brink of an improbable win with a 54 run last-wicket partnership against the Kiwis, few days back. He was cutting loose and threatened to do it all over again. He lofted Kuldeep over the covers, launched Chahal straight down the ground, and swept both of them. Pandya , then bounced out Nathan Coulter-Nile & he responded by clouting him for a straight six . Then Bumrah, seeing him shuffle across his stumps, aimed a full-toss at his pads. Stoinis flicked him for another six bringing the equation down to 51 off 42 from 105 off 102 after the fateful 33rd over. But Kohli always knew that the control was still in their hand as India only needed a solitary wicket to confirm the victory. While Bumrah denied Stoinis to keep his strike for the next  over, Bhuvi completed the job with the very first ball of the 43rd over trapping Kane Richardson plumb in front as the last ditched review attempt didn’t fascinate the DRS .

Earlier in the afternoon Virat Kohli won the toss and opted to bat first after the covers were off following some intermittent showers. Rohit Sharma went cheaply; unlike his record in Eden Gardens, but captain Kohli was determined to prove a point that he  isn’t those type of batters who would regularly get out flashing at the balls directed at 6th stumps, a strategy that most of the teams have found a liking ,when Kohli is at the crease . He took guard on middle stump and shuffled across to off, with his trigger movement, to get closer to the line of attack. Ajinkya Rahane(55) showed some promise about returning to form with a sublime half century and put India in a commanding position with a 102 run partnership with his captain. Kohli continued even after Rahane’s departure stitching a 55 run partnership with Kedar Jadhav as India looked to set a  target of 300 and above with the score reading 185/3 at the 35-over mark. But Nathan Coulter-Nile (3/51) rose to the occasion and triggered a mini collapse in which he had Jadhav and Kohli. Kohli was 8 runs short of  a well-deserved 31st century when he played down an inside edge onto the stumps leaving the crowd in pin drop silence. With the two paced track not easy to plunder runs India were forced to temper their ambition as veteran MSD was also removed shortly by Kane Richardson. Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar tried to take the team on their shoulders but didn’t have the option to take too many risks. They added 33 runs and after a brief halt due to rain, India were bundled out for 252. While Smith  was spot on with his bowling changes and field set-up most of his guys had to fight the hot and humid weather condition of Kolkata. Australia felt the full force of the stifling Kolkata heat while bowling with Wade, Ashton Agar and Kane Richardson all receiving treatment for heat stress or cramps.

It isn’t that easy to defend such modest targets of 250s in this modern cricket. But with a pretty much balanced pace and spinning options and a heavy batting line up India have; they can now surely be compared somewhat to the early  2000 decade champion Australian team, while the current Australian team will need to take a leaf out of that old Aussies side and bring  back some reminiscence of them  to prevent India from winning the series, as of now.



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