Sydney: Virat Kohli fired the opening salvo on the Australia tour with a match-winning 61, helping India win the third T20 International by six wickets and draw the three-match series 1-1 here Sunday. Kohli’s sublime 41-ball knock and his 60-run unbeaten stand with Dinesh Karthik (22 not out off 18) gave India the much needed series leveling win ahead of the all important Test series beginning December 6 at Adelaide..
The captain’s perfectly executed chase in 19.4 overs came after Shikhar Dhawan (41 off 22 balls) and Rohit Sharma (23 off 16 balls) provided a flying start to the innings. Earlier, Krunal Pandya took career-best figures of 4-36 as Australia were restricted to 164-6 in 20 overs. Australia won the opening T20 by four runs while the second game was a washout, putting additional pressure on India who came here at the back of winning six T20 series in a row. Chasing 165, Dhawan and Sharma put on 50 runs off just 28 balls. Both batsmen took the aerial route with aplomb and hit seven fours and four sixes between them to leave the Australian bowlers clueless. Overall, India scored 67-1 in the powerplay overs. Mitchell Starc (1-26) had got the breakthrough in the sixth over, trapping Dhawan lbw via DRS referral. It put a momentary break on scoring as no runs were scored off the next eight balls, resulting in Sharma’s dismissal, who played on off Adam Zampa (1-22). KL Rahul (14) started off by scoring a monster six, and added 41 runs for the third wicket with Kohli. India crossed 100 in the 12th over, but the former started struggling for timing and holed out shortly afterwards. It became a double blow as Rishabh Pant was out for a first-ball duck, gloving behind off a slower short ball from Andrew Tye (1-32). India were in bit of a bother at that stage, but Kohli and Dinesh Karthik (22 not out off 18 balls) brought out their shots. The latter played a perfect foil to Kohli as he struck a four and a six to bring down the asking rate. Kohli meanwhile reached his 19th T20I half-century off 34 balls and took India home with two balls to spare. This was after Pandya’s orthodox left-arm spin came in handy during the middle overs after the hosts had sped to 68-0 after winning the toss and opting to bat. Australia made one change to their line-up, with Mitchell Starc coming in for Jason Behrendorff. India picked an unchanged eleven. Aaron Finch (28) and D’Arcy Short (33) then provided a cautious start to the innings, albeit they picked up momentum quickly as the Indian pacers struggled in conditions vastly different from Brisbane and Melbourne. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (0-33) and Khaleel Ahmed (0-35) both proved expensive, while first-change Jasprit Bumrah (0-38) too didn’t stem the flow of runs, as Australia raced to 49-0 at the end of powerplay overs. The Finch-Short partnership put pressure on the Indian fielding, shoddy again, and Rohit Sharma put down a sitter off Finch (on 22) at the start of the eight over off Pandya. Kuldeep Yadav (1-19) then provided the much-awaited breakthrough as Finch was out caught sweeping at short fine leg. It opened the doors to the Australian middle order. Glenn Maxwell (13) survived an lbw shout via DRS off Yadav, but Short and Ben McDermott (0) were dismissed lbw off successive balls in the tenth over as Pandya pegged Australia back. The quick wickets disturbed Australia’s momentum and they never really recovered, losing wickets at regular intervals in the second half of their innings. They had held back Chris Lynn (13) but he couldn’t provide the requisite impetus, run-out in the 18th over. In between Pandya also accounted for Maxwell, caught by Sharma in the end, as also the vital wicket of Alex Carey (27) who held the Australian middle order together after the initial setbacks. Marcus Stoinis (25 not out off 15 balls) played an attacking cameo at the end, and put on 33 runs with Nathan Coulter-Nile (13 not out) as Australia finished with a score just above average (151) at this ground..