Ro­hit Sharma smashed his sev­enth cen­tury against Aus­tralia, his 22nd over­all, but failed to take the team ashore as India kept los­ing wick­ets.


Ro­hit Sharma’s (133 off 129 balls) ton came in for a los­ing cause on Satur­day as Aus­tralia chocked the visi­tors for runs and kept pick­ing wick­ets at cru­cial junc­tures through­out the match, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for the tail-en­ders to score quickly and reach the win­ning point. India lost the match by 34 runs.

They never re­ally re­cov­ered after the first three wick­ets fell in quick suc­ces­sion – Shikhar Dhawan (0), Vi­rat Kohli (3) and Am­bati Rayudu (0) – leav­ing India reel­ing at 4 runs at the loss of three wick­ets. Though it seemed that India was in con­tention when MS Dhoni (51 off 96 balls) and Sharma stitched a 137-run part­ner­ship but the fu­ture started look­ing bleak when the visi­tors lost Dhoni in a con­tro­ver­sial lbw decision.

Sharma did play a bril­liant in­nings but it was too much to ask from him as he was never re­ally sup­ported on the other end of the crease. At the post-match pre­sen­ta­tion, Kohli praised his fight­ing in­nings and said: “Ro­hit was out­stand­ing and MS sup­ported him but I thought we could have done bet­ter with the tempo of the game and we fell short. They took the game deep to give us a chance.”

Chas­ing Aus­tralia’s 289 runs, India was off to a hor­ren­dous start with the top order de­part­ing in the first five overs, ex­pos­ing the mid­dle order too early in the in­nings. Dhawan could only face a sin­gle ball from debu­tant Ja­son Behren­dorff (2-39) only to get wrapped on his pads and ad­judged lbw by the um­pire.

Then came the world’s best bats­man Vi­rat Kohli who de­liv­ers in try­ing sit­u­a­tions on most of the oc­ca­sions, but ex­cept this one. Try­ing to flick it over mid-wicket, Kohli found field­s­man Mar­cus Stoi­nis, hand­ing, Man of the Man, Jhye Richard­son (4-26) his “spe­cial wicket”. Aus­tralian bowlers looked right on the money on most oc­ca­sions ex­tract­ing lat­eral move­ment off the pitch and keep­ing it tight.

The skip­per has repeatedly shown faith in the new mid­dle order bats­man Rayudu but he too failed to steady the ship and fell on a delivery by Richard­son that was sneak­ing on the leg side.

The old guard MS Dhoni looked res­o­lute to hang on into the crease and it’s not ev­ery day that he ex­tends his bat full throt­tle to save him­self from a run out. Runs were not com­ing eas­ily and the ask­ing rate kept go­ing up. India were scor­ing 2 runs ev­ery six balls be­fore Sharma pulled Peter Sid­dle off for a six in the 13th over. Dhoni fol­lowed suit us­ing his feet against Nathan Lyon to smack it over for max­i­mum.

The Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) wit­nessed rain­ing sixes as the flam­boy­ant Sharma kept dis­miss­ing the ball from its pres­ence with as many as six times for the max­i­mum. His in­nings was also stud­ded with 10 fours. Till the point Sharma was oc­cu­py­ing the crease, the visi­tors looked well in the game to come out on top.

Just when both of them started open­ing their arms, Dhoni was sent back to the pavil­ion by the um­pire on a ball that was pitched out­side leg stump. The um­pire gave the ben­e­fit of doubt to the bowler, Behren­dorff, as India were out of re­views to opt for it.

In the process, the for­mer cap­tain be­came coun­try’s only fifth bats­man be­hind Ten­dulkar, Gan­guly, Dravid and Kohli to com­plete 10,000 runs in ODI cricket. It was Dhoni’s dis­missal that brought Aus­tralia com­pletely back into the game.

“MS got out at that stage. That put pres­sure on Ro­hit. One more good part­ner­ship and we would have got close. But los­ing three wick­ets up front was the prob­lem and Aus­tralia were pro­fes­sional enough not to let us back in,” Kohli added.

After Dhoni’s dis­missal, Di­nesh Karthik came into the crease and looked com­pletely out of sorts as he strug­gled to ac­cel­er­ate the run rate. He was bowled by Richard­son while try­ing to step down and pull the delivery, only to find the in­side edge of the bat that went on to hit the stumps. He scored 12 runs.

Later on, with the in­creas­ing re­quired run-rate and pres­sure mount­ing on India, Ro­hit tried to go over the mid-wicket for six but mis­cued a delivery of Mar­cus Stoi­nis and a thick top edge landed in Glen Maxwell’s hands.

Bhu­vanesh­war Ku­mar tried to con­trib­ute through his 29 runs off 23 balls but chase at this point was too much for him as India failed to cross the fin­ish­ing line and fell short by 34 runs.

Ear­lier, Aus­tralia’s clin­i­cal performance by their bat­ting line-up al­lowed them to post a com­pet­i­tive 288/5. Rid­ing on Us­man Khawaja (59), Shaun Marsh (54), Peter Hand­scomb (73) and Mar­cus Stoi­nis (47 not out), the hosts re­cu­per­ated well after a poor start.

The pick of the bowlers for India were Bhu­vanesh­war and Kuldeep Ya­dav as both of them picked up two wick­ets apiece, con­ced­ing 66 and 54 runs re­spec­tively. Mo­hammed Shami too looked good, es­pe­cially at the death overs, con­sis­tently bowling york­ers even as he re­frain­ing him­self from giv­ing too much of room to the bats­men.

Bhu­vanesh­war com­pleted his 100th scalps when he took Aaron Finch’s wicket. Finch (6) strug­gle with the form con­tin­ues as he failed to come out good in a for­mat that is more suited to him.

After Finch’s dis­missal, opener Alex Carey (24) and Khawaja tried to avoid los­ing fur­ther wick­ets but Kuldeep struck at the right time, dis­miss­ing Carey as he was caught by Sharma at slips.

Shaun Marsh (54) and Khawaja to­gether added a cru­cial 92-run for the third wicket to the score­card be­fore Hand­scomb and Stoi­nis upped the ante to give Aus­tralia a score to fight for. MELBOURNE: Spain’s Rafael Nadal said he was feel­ing healthy and ap­proach­ing full fit­ness ahead of next week›s Aus­tralian Open, after his ri­val, Bri­tain›s Andy Murray, an­nounced plans to re­tire due to in­jury. Nadal, who won the Melbourne tour­na­ment in 2009 and has been dogged by in­jury prob­lems for much of his own ca­reer, was forced to re­tire from last year›s quar­ter-fi­nal against Marin Cilic. “If I was not feel­ing good, I would not be here”, the World No.2 said at a press con­fer­ence in Melbourne, reports Efe news.


Ro­hit Sharma.

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