Nagpur: Skipper Virat Kohli smashed his 40th One Day International century to guide India to an eight-run victory on a challenging pitch in the second One Day International against Australia on Tuesday.
Kohli hit 10 fours in his 120-ball knock and held anchor on a track that appeared to favour bowlers, after Australian captain Aaron Finch won the toss and elected to field in the day-night game.
Chasing a target of 251 runs, the visitors were dismissed for 242 in 49.3 overs to give India a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.
Following Kohli’s landmark exploits, all-rounder Vijay Shankar picked two wickets in the final over.
“When I walk in to bat, when the situation gets difficult, I have no choice but to put my head down and bat through the innings,” said Kohli. “I’m exhausted right now. It felt good [to get to 40 ODI hundreds]. It’s just a number, but it feels good to win games for India.”
The Indians got off to a rocky start, losing openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan (21) early in the innings.
Sharma (0) top-edged Adam Zampa and Dhawan (21) was given out leg before the wicket after Australia’s appeal was upheld on review.
India had no such luck as Ambati Rayudu’s decision to appeal against the on-field umpire’s lbw decision was turned down, the hosts reduced to a shaky 75-3.
Kohli, the world’s top-ranked ODI batsman, went for on the counter-attack, hitting two fours off the last two balls of the 18th over by Zampa to underline his top form.
The 30-year-old skipper timed his innings perfectly, stitching a 81-run partnership with Shankar, who impressed during his 41-ball 46 before being run out by Zampa.
Zampa struck again soon after, dismissing Kedar Jadhav (11) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (0) off successive balls to stun the home crowd into silence.
But Kohli looked unfettered at the other end, reaching his 40th ODI century with a four over backward point.
The flamboyant captain removed his helmet and raised his bat to acknowledge the applause from the crowd and the dressing room.
Kohli’s stint ended when he holed a simple catch to Marcus Stoinis off Pat Cummins, who picked up four late wickets.
India’s innings folded in the 48th over soon after Kohli’s departure, with the hosts unable to see out their 50 overs.
Australia were in the chase all the way until the last over when, needing 11 to win with two wickets left, Marcus Stoinis was lbw for 52 off the first ball bowled by Shankar and Zampa was bowled two balls later.
“I was ready to bowl that over,” said Shankar. “Only if I do it will people know I can. It was just about being mentally clear. I think when you play for the country you have to be ready to do whatever the team needs. I keep telling myself to work on all aspects of the game, and when the opportunity comes, be ready to grab it.”
Australia skipper Aaron Finch added: “It was one of those games where you take it as deep as you can and hope you can get over the line. Marcus played a brilliant innings. The game ebbed and flowed the whole day. Virat was the difference in the game. If one of our top order got 80-100, we would have probably won the game.”
India beat Australia by eight runs. India 250 in 48.2 overs (Kohli 116, Shankar 46; Cummins 4-29, Zampa 2-62) Australia 242 in 49.3 overs (Handscomb 48, Stoinis 52; Shankar 2-15, Kuldeep 3-54).