A batting masterclass from Virat Kohli earned India a tight win over Australia in Sydney last night and squared the T20I series at 1-1.
Kohli was wonderfully composed throughout his unbeaten knock of 61, taking few risks in the first half of his innings before taking on the Australian bowlers just as the home side began to build pressure.
Some tight bowling from Australia managed to blow India’s required run rate out to 11.2 runs per over early in the 16th over before Kohli came out of his shell and hammered Andrew Tye for four then six.
The second of those shots was as majestic as it was powerful, with Kohli merely extending his arms on a graceful off drive to loft the ball into the crowd. From that moment on India looked well in control of the chase.
Australia had only managed to reel India back in thanks to superb spells from Adam Zampa (1-22 from four overs) and Glenn Maxwell (1-25 from four overs).
While that spin pair went at just 5.9 runs per over, Australia’s quicks gave up a whopping 10.3 runs per over for the match.
It was the same story in the only other completed match in this T20I series at Brisbane, where Australia’s only spinner Zampa conceded just 5.5 runs per over, while their pacemen went at 11.3 runs per over.
It boggles my mind that the Australian selectors refuse to recognise the folly of their pace obsession in T20Is.
Not only do Australia’s spinners consistently outperform their fast bowling counterparts in T20Is, but spinners also account for seven of the top eight ranked T20I bowlers in the world.
The shortest format is dominated by spin and everyone in the world cricket community accepts this, except for the Australian selectors.
Zampa underlined again last night why he has become comfortably Australia’s best T20I bowler, especially now that Mitchell Starc so very rarely plays this format.
In his first T20I since 2016, Starc was outstanding last night and was the only Aussie quick who the Indian batsmen appeared wary of.
He conceded just 16 runs from his three overs in the Power Play but the Indian openers ran riot at the other end.
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma blasted 51 from the three overs sent down by Nathan Coulter-Nile and Marcus Stoinis.
It was amid this carnage that Adam Zampa was handed the ball, with India 1-67 after six overs.
The 26-year-old leggie showed his class and self-confidence by producing a wicket maiden in his first over. Targeting the stumps and maintaining a perfect in-between length, Zampa frustrated the Indian batsmen.
At the other end all-rounder Maxwell highlighted why he has been criminally underbowled by Australia in white ball cricket since playing as their lone spinner in the 2015 World Cup.
Operating from around the wicket, Maxwell denied India any width and mixed up his speeds and trajectories beautifully.
Before Australia’s spinners came on to bowl the required run rate for India was elementary at seven runs per over. By the time they had finished the required rate had ballooned to nine per over and Australia were back in the match.
But Kohli was simply too good. Earlier Australia got off to a great start with the bat, at 0-64 after eight overs, before their innings was derailed as they gifted wickets to India.
Aaron Finch (28), D’Arcy Short (33), Ben McDermott (0) and Alex Carey (27) all were dismissed while executing the sweep shot poorly. Meanwhile, Marcus Stoinis ran out Chris Lynn and Glenn Maxwell lofted the ball straight into the hands of long on.
A sprightly stand of 33 from 16 balls between Stoinis (25no) and Coulter-Nile (13no) helped Australia to a solid total of 6-164. But that was never going to be enough after Australia bled 67 runs in the Power Play as Coulter-Nile and Stoinis were demolished.