Australia showed great resilience to record their first ODI win overseas since 2017, overcoming one of masterful chaser Virat Kohli’s “finest” centuries to defeat India by 32 runs in Ranchi.
Written off as World Cup contenders and down 2-0 in the five-match series, Australia responded with arguably their best one-day performance under coach Justin Langer.
Langer will be thrilled with his side’s first one-day victory outside Australia since they triumphed in Bangalore, in September 2017.
Australia now have hope of completing their first ODI series win on foreign soil since September 2016 – which would be some achievement against the star-studded side widely expected to be England’s biggest threat at the World Cup.
Aaron Finch returned to form and Usman Khawaja posted his maiden ODI ton as Australia finished 5-313, their biggest total since amassing 5-334 during that same 2017 match in Bangalore.
Finch (93) and Khawaja (104) laid the platform for an even bigger total in their 193-run opening stand, which spanned 191 balls and was almost double Australia’s previous highest opening partnership during David Warner’s suspension.
Kohli, fresh from his match-winning hundred in Nagpur on Tuesday, responded with a sparkling knock of 123 that came off just 95 balls.
Adam Zampa made the crucial breakthrough, clean bowling the captain to dismiss him for a third time on tour, and also removed MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav.
India were all out for 281 in 48.2 overs, with Pat Cummins and recalled paceman Jhye Richardson also playing pivotal roles with the ball as Australia improved their recent record to five wins from the past 27 ODIs.
“Winning against a very good Indian side, it’s always nice. Especially on their turf,” Khawaja said.
“We knew we weren’t far away.
“Virat is obviously batting unbelievably … that wicket was massive.
“The great thing about today was that I don’t think he (Zampa) bowled at his best and he still took some extremely important wickets. That’s the sign of a good player,” he said.
The all-important scalp of Dhoni reduced India to 4-86, silencing a sold-out crowd that came to see what is expected to be the wicketkeeper’s final international game in India.
Kohli’s class and composure came to the fore as he wrestled momentum back from the visitors with ODI century No.41.
“In terms of hitting the ball well I think it was one of the finest. I just felt really clear in my head from ball one,” Kohli said.
“I was really disappointed I got out … Adam bowled well and they deserved to win.”
India’s equation was 95 runs off 75 balls when a well-set Kohli departed.
The challenge for Australia had been simple yet mindbogglingly difficult.
They needed to find a way to remove Kohli, whose batting average in ODI chases is now an outrageous 68.71 (with 25 tons), or lose the series.
Kohli offered a caught-behind chance on 98 before Zampa stepped up.
The series continues in Chandigarh on Sunday before wrapping up in Delhi on Wednesday.