As India lost both its openers within the first four overs of its chase of Australia’s 186/7, there was a threat of the innings coming apart and the hosts losing the match and the series that was levelled 1-1 going into the match.
For K.L Rahul had been in good form in the first T20I at Mohali, hitting a 35-ball 55 to help the team go past the 200-run mark. India lost that match by four wickets. Rohit was the architect of India’s win in the 8-over-a-side slugfest at Nagpur as he blasted a 20-ball 46 to help India chase a target of 91 runs.
So, when both of them got out cheaply with only 30 runs on the board, India were in trouble.
However, Virat Kohli (63) and Suryakumar Yadav (69) struck brilliant fifties and figured in a century partnership as India defeated Australia by six wickets with one ball to spare at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium here on Sunday and clinched the three-match series 2-1.
Kohli, who was dropped by Adam Zampa of his own bowling early on, anchored the innings and figured in two vital partnerships — a 104 runs stand for the third wicket with Yadav and 48 runs for the fourth with Hardik Pandya (25 not out) as India capitalised on some good work by their bowlers to restrict Australia to 186/7.
Australia had got off to a blazing start thanks to youngster Cameron Green (52) but were pegged back by the Indian bowlers, who came back strongly in the middle overs, before ending the innings in whirlwind fashion thanks to Tim David (54) to raise 186/7. But thanks to the brilliant efforts by Kohli and Yadav helped India reach 187/4 in 19.5 overs to win the match.
This was Kohli’s second hundred-run partnership at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium after figuring in a 102-run stand with KL Rahul against West Indies in 2019.
While hitting a brilliant 69, Suryakumar Yadav became the highest scorer in T20 this year as he reached 682 runs in 20 innings to overtake D.S Airee of Nepal who has 626 runs from 17 innings.
Suryakumar Yadav was in brilliant form as he started steadily and then unleashed a flurry of shots to race to his half-century off 29 balls. He struck Cummins for a huge six off the sixth ball he faced on Sunday, getting across to a short one and pulling it superbly over deep mid-wicket.
He hammered Zampa for back-to-back sixes in the 13th over and struck Hazlewood for a four and six off the same over — the six off the third ball of the 14th over a superb shot off a knuckleball on the middle stump that the Mumbai batter flicked over deep Square-leg boundary.
He was eventually out for another big one but was caught by Aaron Finch at the long-on boundary as India recovered from 30/2 to 132/3, putting themselves in a strong position to win the match.
Kohli, who had missed out in the first two T20Is after a superb tour of UAE for the Asia Cup, started aggressively at the other end but Suryakumar Yadav caught up with him and then surged ahead. But once Yadav was out, Kohli kept the momentum going as he found an able partner in Hardik Pandya as they kept the target well in sight.
Kohli, who had struck a hundred and two fifties for India in the 2022 Asia Cup recently, played some brilliant shots as he anchored the innings after Rohit Sharma got out.
He started with a four off Zampa in the third over when the bowler over-pitched outside off and then despatched Cameron Green brilliantly to the boundary through covers. The former India captain blasted a six and four off successive balls in the sixth over, picking a slower bowled at the back of the length on middle stump easily to deposit it into the stands over the deep mid-wicket boundary.
He took the backseat as Suryakumar went after the bowling but continued the momentum after the Mumbai batter got out. He and Pandya raised 48 runs for the fourth wicket as they guided India to victory.
Earlier, youngsters Cameron Green (52) and Tim David (54), who had come into the series with big reputations, struck half-centuries as Australia recovered from a mid-innings slump to post 186/7.
Green (52 off 21 balls) gave the innings the early momentum as he blasted the third fastest fifty for Australia in T20 cricket, racing to his half-century off 19 deliveries while David, the big-hitter who started his career with Singapore before moving to Australia, gave the innings the much-needed push towards the end as Australia recovered from 117/6 in 14th over to post a respectable total.
Tim David (54 runs, 27 balls, 4×2, 4×6) and Daniel Sams raised 68 runs for the seventh wicket off 34 balls as Australia went for the leather in the final four overs, hitting 21 runs off the 18th over by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and 18 off the 19th bowled by Bumrah.
But Harshal Patel bowled a superb final over, conceding only 7 runs and sent back the dangerous David as Australia ended with 187/7 in their 20 overs. Daniel Sams remained unbeaten on 28 runs.
Axar was the best Indian bowler on the pitch on as he claimed 3-33 off his four overs. Though he was manhandled by Green, Axar made a great comeback to peg the Aussies back in the middle overs.
But in the end, the brilliance of Cameron Green and Tim David was overshadowed by that of Virat Kohli and Suryakuamr Yadav as India won another T20I series at home.