Sydney: Skipper Virat Kohli (61 not out) scored a sparkling half-century to guide India to a six-wicket victory over Australia and level the three-match rubber 1-1 at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) here on Sunday.
The visitors were in a must-win situation on Sunday as Australia had won the first T201 at Brisbane while the second game was washed out at Melbourne.
The Indian skipper, who hit the winning runs, came in the sixth over when India were 67/1 and made sure his team crossed the line well in time to deny the hosts a series win.
Kohli’s knock was laced with four boundaries and a couple of sixes. The Indian skipper was involved in a crucial 60-run partnership with Dinesh Karthik, who provided valuable support with his unbeaten 18-ball 22 runs.
Chasing a 165-run target, openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma lit up the early stages of the run chase with some awesome strokeplay. The duo hammered Nathan Coulter-Nile and Marcus Stoinis for 20 and 22 runs in the fourth and fifth over respectively as India’s scorecard read 62/0 after five overs.
Mitchell Starc gave some respite to Australia by breaking the 67-run partnership as the pacer picked Dhawan before the wickets in the sixth over. Leggie Adam Zampa then struck to dismiss Rohit (23) with India’s scorecard reading 67/2.
Lokesh Rahul (14) and Kohli then tried to rescue India, adding 41 runs for the third wicket before the former, while trying to clear the fence off a Glenn Maxwell delivery, was caught at long-off.
In the very first ball of the next over, it seemed Australia were back in the contest as medium pacer Andrew Tye sent back stumper Rishabh Pant, who failed to open his account and India were reeling at 108/4 in 13.1 overs.
However, Kohli was then joined by Karthik and the duo denied the hosts any further celebration as they guided India home with a match-winning 60-run partnership.
For Australia, Starc, Zampa, Maxwell and Tye picked a wicket each.
Earlier, a collective batting effort guided Australia to post a respectable 164/6.
Left-arm off-spinner Krunal Pandya returned with career best figures of 4/36, while chinaman Kuldeep Yadav was also impressive by conceding just 19 runs in his four overs and also picked a wicket.
Opting to bat, Australia were off to a decent start as openers Aaron Finch and D Arcy Short played sensible cricket and the hosts raced away to 41 runs in just five overs.
Just when the partnership between the openers seemed to be getting bigger, Krunal came in with the much needed breakthrough, picking Finch (28) before the wickets, with Australia at 68/1 in 8.3 overs.
With the addition of another five runs on Australia’s scorecard, Kuldeep gave another jolt as the chinaman packed back a well-settled Short (33) in the 10th over. Krunal then dismissed incoming batsman Ben McDermott on a duck, leaving the hosts at 73/3.
His fall saw Maxwell come in the middle, but while trying to launch a ball of Krunal into orbit, the batsman was caught at long-on by Rohit, leaving the hosts tottering at 90/4.
Stumper Alex Carey (27) and Chris Lynn (13) then added 29 runs for the fifth wicket, helping their side cross the three digit mark. However, Krunal was in no mood to spare the aussies, who had clobbered him for 55 runs in Brisbane, and picked his fourth wicket by sending back Carey in the 16th over.
With Australia at 131, Lynn departed after failing to complete his ground and Jasprit Bumrah made no mistake in hitting the bulls eye.
Stoinis then played a 15-ball 25 run knock, while Coulter-Nile chipped in with 13 runs off seven deliveries in the final overs to help the hosts reach a good total.
Brief scores: Australia 164/6 in 20 overs (D Arcy Short 33, Aaron Finch 28; Krunal Pandya 4/36) lose to India 168/4 in 19.4 overs (Virat Kohli 61 not out, Shikhar Dhawan 41; Mitchell Starc 1/26)