Centurions Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan help India stun Australia
Virat Kohli (115 not out), Shikhar Dhawan (100) and Rohit Sharma (79) were at it again as India chased down another 350 plus score to level the seven-match ODI series against Australia 2-2 at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium at Nagpur on Wednesday.
India pulled off a sensational six-wicket victory over Australia in the do-or-die sixth cricket one-dayer, riding on Virat Kohli's brutal unbeaten 115 and Shikhar Dhawan's blistering century to level the seven-match series 2-2 at Nagpur on Wednesday.
Chasing a mammoth 351, the Indians gave ample display of their batting firepower on a belter of a track at the VCA Stadium at Jamtha to overhaul the target with three balls to spare in what turned out to be a thrilling floodlit contest which went down to the wire.
The incredible run chase brought back memories of India's awesome victory in Jaipur on October 16 when they overhauled a stiff target of 360, achieving the second highest successful run chase ever in ODI history.
Dhawan (100), Rohit Sharma (79) and Kohli -- who hit the third fastest ODI hundred by an Indian from just 61 balls, were the main architects of India's victory in the high-scoring tussle which has restored the balance of the series after the Ranchi and Cuttack ODIs were washed out.
Earlier, George Bailey (156) and Shane Watson (102) smashed scintillating centuries as Australia put the listless Indian bowling attack to the sword to post an imposing 350 for six after being in to bat.
India replied in stunning fashion with Dhawan hitting his fourth ODI ton in his 24th match while Kohli struck his 17th century in his 118th match.
Dhawan faced 102 balls in his innings and hit 11 boundaries while Kohli's unbeaten knock came from just 66 balls with the help of 18 fours and a six.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (25 not out) hit the winning runs -- a two -- as India reached 351 for four to bring the capacity crowd to raptures and the home team players hugging each other at the dressing room.
With the scores locked 2-2, the seventh ODI in Bangalore on Saturday will serve as the summit showdown of the series which has already seen a phenomenal 2565 runs scored so far (excluding the 295 scored by Australia in the abandoned fourth match at Ranchi).
India stuttered a bit towards the end as Suresh Raina (16) and struggling Yuvraj Singh (0) were out in the same over -- 43rd -- but Kohli, who had hit the fastest-ever 100 off just 52 balls by an Indian in Jaipur and an equally unruffled Dhoni saw them home with an unbroken partnership of 61 for the fifth wicket.
The game looked on a knife's edge even after the great start given by Dhawan and Rohit -- who shared 178 runs from 29.3 overs for the opening wicket -- after Mitchell Johnson struck twice in one over, but Kohli tore into the visitors' bowling attack to swing the game back in India's favour.
Dhawan was lucky to be let off when on 19 off James Faulkner at fly-gully by Glenn Maxwell and then survived a difficult chance after reaching his 50. In between these two escapes and earlier too, he got his runs mainly by using his bottom hand to hit square and behind the wicket on both sides and reached his half century with a run-a-ball effort.
Rohit, who made an unbeaten 141 in the earlier successful run chase at Jaipur, started off cautiously against the medium pacers and then was severe on Maxwell whom he hit for two sixes in the 29th over and then fell while trying to repeat the feat in the next over.
When Rohit exited, India needed 173 from 183 balls and Kohli started off positively by striking Xavier Doherty for a six and two fours in 33rd over.
Dhawan and Kohli brought the hosts 117 runs adrift of the target in the last 96 balls with a stand of 56 when the left handed opener departed off the left-arm pacer James Faulker. Kohli, India's most consistent batsman in the series, and Raina got involved in a partnership of 54 to bring the home team close to victory.
Johnson, treated harshly by Kohli in his previous over, came back strongly to dismiss left-handers Raina and Yuvraj in the 43rd over at the same total of 290 to bring his side back into the game. Kohli and Dhoni, however, ensured that India got past the finish line though at one time during their partnership, the home side needed 48 off 30 balls and then 35 off the last 18.
These two batsmen also compiled the second-highest third wicket stand of 168 in ODIs against India to help the visitors record their fourth 300-plus total in the series.
The home team started off well by sending back openers Phil Hughes (13) and Aaron Finch (20) before the score had crossed 50 but were pushed into the backseat as Watson and Bailey launched a superb counter-attack. The duo simply tore apart the clueless Indian bowling attack that fielded three frontline spinners for the first time in the seven-match series after the hosts decided to go in with Amit Mishra to partner R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
Later, after the dismissal of Watson and Glen Maxwell (9), Adam Voges (44 not out) helped his captain add another 120 runs in only 80 balls for the fifth wicket to complete India's misery on a good batting track.
While the 32-year-old Watson was all power, Bailey, who has been the team's most consistent batsman in the series, once again dominated the home team attack to notch up his fourth 50-plus score in five innings.
India had the visitors under check in the first 20 overs by restricting Australia to 83/2 but the middle overs were totally dominated by Watson and Bailey who compiled the second-best-ever third wicket stand for their country against the hosts.
The 168-run partnership, that came off just 142 balls, was only the second-highest after Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn's unfinished 234 in the 2003 World Cup final at Johannesburg and the eighth 150-plus stand for all wickets against India.
Australia 350 for six in 50 overs (George Bailey 156, Shane Watson 102, Adam Voges 44; Ravichandran Ashwin 2-64, Ravindra Jadeja 2-68) vs India 351 for four in 49.3 overs (Virat Kohli 115 not out, Shikhar Dhawan 100, Rohit Sharma 79; Mitchell Johnson 2-72, Aaron Finch 1-20)