Adelaide, Jan 15 (IANS) Mahendra Singh Dhoni silenced his critics with a brisk unbeaten half-century while skipper Virat Kohli scored a century as India clinched a series levelling six-wicket win in the second ODI against Australia here on Tuesday.
The former captain showed glimpses of his trademark ability to pull off difficult run chases with a 54-ball 55.
Dhoni has now notched up half-centuries in contrasting style in two back-to-back matches.
Although the 96-ball 51 in the first One-Day International (ODI) came in difficult circumstances, it was slammed by critics who claimed that the 37-year-old is now over hill.
But Tuesday’s innings have surely silenced all the questioned and strengthened Dhoni’s claim for a spot in the World Cup squad.
Chasing a competitive 299 for victory, the tourists suffered an early jolt when Shikhar Dhawan was dismissed in the eighth over.
But a collective batting effort from the top order, and a 82-run fourth wicket stand between Kohli and Dhoni ensured the team’s win with four balls to spare.
Coming in to bat after the fall of Shikhar Dhawan in the eighth over, Kohli anchored the Indian innings with 104 runs off 112 balls.
After the skipper was dismissed in the 44th over, Dhoni produced his trademark finish to keep India in the hunt for the series.
Medium-pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar also starred in India’s win by picking up four wickets, while Mohammed Shami contributed well with three scalps.
Apart from Kohli and former skipper Dhoni, opener Rohit Sharma (42), Shikhar Dhawan (32) and Dinesh Karthik (25 not out) made valuable contributions.
India started its innings safely as Rohit and Dhawan took their side near the 50-run mark before Jason Behrendorff drew first blood for Australia, dismissing the latter with the score reading 47/1.
Incoming batsman Kohli then joined the opener and the duo took their side past the three-digit mark in 17.4 overs before Rohit fell in the next delivery by Marcus Stoinis. Rohit’s top edge was taken safely by Peter Handscomb at deep forward square.
Ambati Rayudu then ably supported his skipper, chipping in with 24 runs before falling in the 31st over and forging a 59-run partnership for the third wicket as India were still 139 runs away from victory.
Kohli was then joined by Dhoni and their crucial 82-run partnership drew India closer to a victory. Enroute, Kohli also notched up his ton off 107 balls. However, the Indian run-machine failed to carry India through the finishing line as Jason Behrendorff sent him back in the 44th over with India’s score reading 242/4.
Dhoni however continued marshalling the forces along with Karthik to help India cross the line with four balls to spare.
For Australia, Behrendorff, Richardson, Stoinis and Maxwell picked up a wicket each.
Earlier, the hosts rode on a laborious century from Shaun Marsh in energy sapping conditions to post a competitive total.
Marsh, who struck 11 fours and 3 sixes in his 123-ball 131, was instrumental in rebuilding the Aussie innings that saw him sharing half-century stands with Usman Khawaja (56 for the third wicket), Peter Handscomb (52 for the fourth), Marcus Stoinis (55 for the fifth) and Glenn Maxwell (94 for the sixth).
Electing to bat, Australia’s start went off-track after both the openers — Aaron Finch (6) and Alex Carey (18) departed in successive overs bringing Marsh and Khawaja (21) together.
However, Ravindra Jadeja’s brilliance on the field cut short Khawaja’s stay.
New man Handscomb, then joined Marsh to add another vital 52 runs before being undone by Dhoni, who stumped the right-hander for 20 from 22 balls off Jadeja.
All-rounder Stoinis (29) was then promoted ahead of the swashbuckling Maxwell and the former responded in style with a flashy 36-ball 29 before getting a bottom edge while attempting to pull a short ball from Mohammed Shami.
Maxwell blasted his way to a 37-ball 48, laced with five boundaries and a six and went on to almost take the game away from the Indians with his 94-run stand with Marsh, who also started pressing the accelerator after reaching the three-figure mark.
Comfortably placed at 283/5 by the 47th over, India’s death over specialist Bhuvneshwar Kumar then produced a magical spell that saw the Aussies lose four wickets in a span of just four runs.
Bhuvneshwar brought India back with the wickets of Maxwell and Marsh in three deliveries before Mohammed Shami also struck with the wicket of Richardson (2).
Bhuvneshwar then packed off tailender Peter Siddle for a duck even as Nathan Lyon struck a four and a six in the final over to take the total to 298/9.
Besides the excellent run out of Khawaja, left-arm spinner Jadeja also picked up one wicket even as Mohammed Siraj had a forgettable debut leaking 76 runs off his 10 overs.
Australia 298/9 (Shaun Marsh 131, Glenn Maxwell 48; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 4/45, Mohammed Shami 3/58) lose to India 299/4 in 49.2 overs (Virat Kohli 104, MS Dhoni 55 not out; Glenn Maxwell 1/16) by six wickets.