India level series on back of Kohli, Dhoni heroics
In a tale of two captains Virat Kohli delivered another Adelaide century masterpiece while Aaron Finch's technical frailty casts a shadow over Australia's World Cup defence on Tuesday night.
Kohli's 39th one-day ton (104, 112 balls) and second at his favourite ground to back up three in Tests here contrasted with Finch's woes in a six wicket win. MS Dhoni (55, 54) iced the 299 chase with a 57-run, fifth-wicket stand with Dinesh Karthik (25). Australian skipper Finch was bowled for the fifth time in eight one-day innings and averages 13.8 from his last five.
"I thought we hung in there well but when the old pro Dhoni is there is it is tough," Finch told Fox Sports.
"The Powerplays we have to get right and I am responsible for that - not getting enough runs. I've not been coming off, but captaincy is separate from personal performance. Shaun Marsh played a hell of an innings in brutal conditions."
Shaun Marsh (131 off 123 balls) ignited but couldn't prevent India levelling the three match series and delaying Australia's quest to end a six series losing sequence stretching back to its last triumph against Pakistan in January 2017. Impressive Marcus Stoinis curtailed Rohit Sharma (43) - the key to India's 11 century opening stands since January 2017. Australia has had just two in the same period. Ice cool captains past and present Kohli and Dhoni put on a crucial 82 in 78 balls.
India needed to accelerate with 144 required from the last 20 overs which caused Ambati Rayudu (24) to launch Glenn Maxwell to Stoinis at midwicket. Jhye Richardson (1/59) claimed Kohli at deep midwicket leaving India 57 from 38 balls for victory. Dhoni hadn't hit a boundary before belting Nathan Lyon (0/59) for six in the 45th over but led the tourists to victory in trademark fashion. India needed 25 from 18 balls with Karthik proving a solid ally for Dhoni. Dhoni has a one-day average of 50 for a reason and ran the clock down to perfection despite the best efforts of Australia's attack.
India required 16 from two overs when 37-year-old Dhoni - without a game since November - collapsed with cramp.
However legend Dhoni secured victory with a six over long off from Jason Behrendorff with four balls to spare.No.7 batsman Glenn Maxwell (48 off 37) had 13.2 overs to showcase cricket's second-highest ODI strike-rate.
The Big Show didn't disappoint in a 94-run, sixth-wicket stand with Marsh off 65 balls as Australia posted 9-298.
Left-hander Marsh remains Justin Langer's go-to World Cup batsman with a career average of 42 and 45 in the Old Dart but needs more top six support. Marsh's seventh one-day ton was built on wonderful footwork against spin and effortless strokeplay against the seamers.
Australian selectors will ponder whether Finch was ruined by a controversial Test call-up.David Warner's return will be instrumental in any viable World Cup defence but Australia must settle on his opening partner and won't want to be searching for a new captain.
Having axed Finch after averaging 16 in his maiden home Test series against India, selectors now have an opener exhibiting diminished faith in his white ball prowess.
Finch is a shadow of the batsman who averaged 91 against England last summer with India relentlessly attacked his stumps this season.
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