India 4 for 168 (Kohli 61*, Dhawan 41) beat Australia 6 for 164 (Short 33, Krunal 4 for 36) by six wickets
In front of a record SCG T20I crowd of 37,339 dominated by blue shirts, India levelled the T20I series on the back of a fine performance by their spinners followed by another chasing masterclass from Virat Kohli. A first-wicket stand of 67 in 5.3 overs broke the back of the pursuit before Kohli’s unbeaten 61 off 41 balls ensured a couple of India wobbles did not prove terminal.
Australia had started promisingly after Aaron Finch decided to bat, but once again the home side struggled against the left-arm wristspin of Kuldeep Yadav who conceded just 19 runs in his four overs. While survival was the main task against Kuldeep, Australia tried to attack Krunal Pandya which presented him with the best figures by a spinner in T20Is in the country.
Australia briefly found a response with the ball after the rollicking opening stand ignited by Shikhar Dhawan, as first Mitchell Starc and Adam Zampa then Glenn Maxwell and AJ Tye struck in quick succession, but there was no getting past Kohli who made his first significant contribution of a summer he is sure to have a central role in defining.
It wasn’t always convincing, but Finch and D’Arcy Short gave Australia a solid – if not spectacular – base with an opening stand of 68. They were aided by some below-par India fielding, including Rohit Sharma’s drop of Finch at long-on when he had 22, but the pair also found the middle more frequently than they have of late. Things changed when India’s spinners were handed the ball. It was the wonderfully skillful Kuldeep who provided the breakthrough having Finch caught at short fine leg and he thought he had Glenn Maxwell lbw three balls later but there was enough turn to beat leg stump. However, Krunal, bowling flatter than Kuldeep, had no problems claiming a brace of lbws in consecutive deliveries: Short and Ben McDermott both out sweeping as Australia showed a reluctance to hit straight.
The Kuldeep-Krunal double act
Kuldeep continued to befuddle Australia, despite their attempts to counter him with a reshuffled batting order, completing his third spell of the series at or under a run a ball and Krunal was able to feed off the pressure applied. The batsmen knew they had to attack at his end and he bagged himself 4 for 36. His series had turned around significantly since being taken to the cleaners in the opening game by Maxwell.
Now Krunal claimed Maxwell in consecutive innings after Kuldeep went for just seven runs off the 10 balls he bowled to him. Trying to break free, Maxwell couldn’t clear long-on where, this time, Rohit held on. Then Alex Carey, who had shown some classy touches to revive the innings, picked out deep midwicket. Kuldeep and Krunal: 8-0-55-5.
The innings did not quite fall away as it threatened to as a combination of edges, hefty blows and desperate running from Marcus Stoinis and Nathan Coulter-Nile scrambled 33 off the last 16 balls of the innings. But to highlight the fact that Australia had to battle to set a decent target, their total of 164 was the highest in T20Is without a six.
Flattened by Rohit and Dhawan, finished by Kohli
For the first three overs of the chase, Dhawan and Rohit bided their time as Starc, playing his first T20I for more than two years, pushed the speed gun upwards of 145kph. Against the last ball of Starc’s second over, Dhawan nailed a thunderous off drive and it was the prelude of what was to come. Both batsmen deposited Coulter-Nile into the stands and Stoinis’ first over was brutalised to the tune of 22 runs as the openers feasted on medium pace. India were already 62 for 0 with one over of Powerplay to go.
Finch had little choice to return to Starc and the moved worked when he pinned Dhawan lbw with a rapid delivery which the DRS showed had struck pad first in line with leg stump. When Zampa, who bowled superbly in Brisbane, started with a wicket maiden that included a brilliant skidder to beat Rohit, there was a glimmer for Australia. That sense returned when KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant both played careless shots when all Kohli needed was support, but back-to-back boundaries by Kohli off Tye – the second a magnificent lofted six over long-off – pushed the game back India’s way and this time Australia didn’t have a response. The first series of three is shared. Now for the main course.