'One player cannot win you the match; it's a team game'- Bet, you'd have heard this line time and again whenever individual brilliance is overshadowed by the collective failure of his teammates. It couldn't have been vindicated more at Ranchi as Virat Kohli's- yep, that man again- batting tutorial proved to be insufficient to take India past the finishing line as Australia broke their sequence of four consecutive defeats and kept the 5-match series alive, with two ODIs still to be played.
It is only the second time that Virat Kohli's hundred while chasing a score in excess of 300 ended up on a losing note. The first instance was against Australia in Canberra back in 2016. But, unlike that game, where the lower-order imploded, today's defeat could be attributed to the collective failure of the Indian batting-unit sans Kohli.
What is slowly emerging as a big headache, India's openers failed to give their side a steady start. Shikhar Dhawan's rut continued as hit an innocuous-looking ball straight to point. The Australian new ball bowlers were brilliant in their first spell. Jhye Richardson bowled two maidens to start with while Pat Cummins, too, found a bit of movement to trouble Rohit.
After Dhawan's departure, all eyes were on the dup of Kohli and Rohit to set-up a platform for the middle-order, but Sharma, as he has looked since the latter half of the New Zealand series looked pretty rusty and was ultimately trapped LBW by Pat Cummins after Australia decided to review the on-field decision of 'Not Out'.
At 2-15, Ambati Rayudu joined Virat Kohli at the crease. With two underwhelming knocks in the series thus far, it was a crucial inning for India's No.4. But, as has been the nature of his form that has oscillated from swashbuckling highs to excruciating lows, it hit a nadir at Ranchi. His technical deficiencies against pace bowling brought about his downfall as a Pat Cummins, bowling at good pace, got the ball to seam back-in, to square Rayudu completely and knock his stumps over.
At 3-27, India needed their talisman in Dhoni and Kohli to step-up and stitch a big partnership. Dhoni started well, breaking the shackles to square-cut Jhye Richardson managing to dissect the gap between point and cover before hooking him behind square to nudge the total to 40 after 10 over
Both the batsman played to the situation and stitched a 50-run stand for the fourth wicket. But, just as it was shaping out in the form of match-winning one, Adam Zampa yorked MS Dhoni to peg India back.
Kohli, too, struggled to find his timing, but twice in a row, Kohli showed why he is so far ahead as a batsman- especially in ODI cricket. His ability to adjust to the track on offer and also the situation at hand is; well, there hasn't been word invented yet. On a track where all the other batsmen found it difficult to adjust to the dual-pace, the Indian captain paced his innings to perfection. A key tenet to Kohli's batting has been his ability to maneuver the strike, but there's another facet to it which he displayed today.
Every time Australia brought in a new bowler into the attack, Kohli attacked him straightaway to put the pressure back before continuing to maneuvering the strike again. His strokeplay against the likes of quicks was immaculate. Marcus Stoinis felt the brunt the most, conceding as many as seven boundaries to Kohli.
Kedar Jadhav gave ideal support to Kohli, rotating the side well, besides getting an occasional boundary. But, Zampa, even though he went for runs, continued to take the crucial wickets. He trapped Kedar Jadhav in front of the wicket before landing a death-blow by ripping the stumps of Virat Kohli.
Kohli, after smoking Zampa for back-to-back boundaries, had a bit of lapse in his concentration and yorked himself while going for a cover-drive. Post Kohli's dismissal, the onus was on Vijay Shankar and Ravindra Jadeja to take India past the finishing line.
Shankar played a few enterprising strokes before eventually holing out to Nathan Lyon, once again throwing the spotlight on India's misfiring lower-order as Australia claimed the last three wickets for eight runs to seal a 32-run win.
But, it can also be argued that India lost a lot of ground in the game during their bowling stint. With India playing just three specialist bowlers and two all-rounders, it was crucial to get early wickets. The opportunity arrived in the seventh over when Khwaja lopped up a simple catch to Shikhar Dhawan, who made a hash of it.
Khwaja and Finch, then, went on to become the chief architect of the Aussie innings as the duo stitched a 193-run stand for the opening wicket. Finch showed signs of a return to form with a sublime 93 but missed out on a hundred when he was trapped LBW to Kuldeep Yadav in the 32nd over where the DRS ball-tracking error came into the spotlight.
Unlike Finch, Khawaja cashed-in and went on to notch up his first ton in ODI cricket. Glenn Maxwell looked authoritative during his knock of 31-ball 47, and with him at the crease, Australia looked well on-course of posting in excess of 350.
But, a combined brilliance from Jadeja and Dhoni ran out Maxwell to initiate a collapse to the tune 3-5, with Kuldeep accounting for Marsh and Handscomb. Carey and Stoinis struggled to get the big strokes but two crucial boundaries in the last over meant Australia nudged past 310 [5-313] which ultimately proved to be 32 runs too many for the hosts.
Australia [5-313, Khawaja 104, Finch 93, Kuldeep Yadav 3-64] beat India [281, Virat Kohli 123, Pat Cummins 3-37, Jhye Richardson 3-37] by 32 runs