After much debate following the opening One-Day International when Virat Kohli came in at 4 to accommodate three openers, he returned to his regular spot at No. 3 in Rajkot, leading India's charge. At one stage, with Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan in the middle and having shared a century stand, it looked like India would comfortably get over 350 on a belter of a wicket. Quick wickets dented that momentum, but KL Rahul single-handedly gave India a total of 340 to contend with coming at a position of No. 5 that he isn't accustomed to, but delivering to perfection on Friday (January 17).
Following the dismissal of Kohli, India were 280 for 4 in 44 overs. Manish Pandey fell soon after but set-batsman Rahul, who was on a 44 off 34 then, took over and launched a counterattack. He found the boundaries at will, dispatching Australia's pacers to all parts with their best pacer - Pat Cummins - having only one over left as India scored 53 in the final five. He eventually was run out in the last over for 80 that came off just 52, but it gave India a total they would fancy their chances with. Starc's 78 was the second-highest number of runs he has ever conceded in an ODI.
Rohit and Dhawan gave India a strong start upfront, despite Cummins's probing lengths. Starc strayed a tad bit and the openers took advantage, forcing Australia to make an early change. He had conceded 20 in three overs in his first spell. Kane Richardson, the change bowler, wasn't spared either, as both the openers stuck into him, compelling Aaron Finch to introduce Adam Zampa's leg-spin earlier than he would've anticipated as Cummins kept things tight from one end. In Australia's first 17 overs, Cummins had bowled seven of his ten.
Zampa then provided Australia with the breakthrough after the opening stand threatened to get away from them. In just his second over, he trapped Rohit LBW against a fuller ball that was too full to be swept. Rohit reviewed the on-field decision but to no avail. Dhawan and Kohli thereafter joined hands to power India to a position of strength with a century stand. It was a stand that saw Kohli take the back seat as Dhawan dominated with 70 runs. Kohli may not have hit the boundaries in typical fashion, but he rotated the strike and was an able ally to his partner at the other end.
Dhawan looked like he wanted to make up for last game's missed chance to convert his fifty-plus score into a century, but perished to a poor shot off as poor a ball from Richardson. It was short and headed down leg when Dhawan decided to pull it straight to fine leg when on 96. While the other bowlers were being taken to different parts of the park, Zampa was the standout, bowling stump to stump, keeping the ball up, attacking the batsmen with his accuracy and bowling quite full, making it difficult for the batsmen to get under him to put him away.
Kohli went on to get to another half-century and just when it looked like he was in the process of switching gears, Zampa struck with Shreyas Iyer's wicket for not much, which worked well for India in hindsight. Kohli's 78 wasn't a knock typical of the Indian skipper but was one where the dots balls were far lesser with the highlight of his 76-ball stay rotating the strike and keeping the scoreboard ticking while stitching partnerships with Dhawan Rahul.
Rahul, capitalised on the form he is in and raced away to a half-century. At that stage, with Rahul and Kohli cashing in on some wayward bowling from Australia, Cummins was brought in with only his three overs left. Australia were desperate to break the stand and get Kohli, but it was Zampa - in his final over - who provided them with that key wicket at a crucial time in the game, to account for the Indian captain for the fifth time in ODIs. Kohli lofted a loppy one straight down the ground as Agar plucked it just inside the boundary line, but tossed it over to Starc to complete the catch as he went over. The skipper fell for 78, ending a 78-run stand with Rahul, with Zampa finishing with 3-50 in his 10 - the pick of the bowlers on a wicket that had little for them.
Brief scores: India 340/6 in 50 overs (Rohit Sharma 42, Shikhar Dhawan 96, Virat Kohli 78, KL Rahul 80; Pat Cummins 0-53, Adam Zampa 3-50) vs Australia.