Shikhar Dhawan's classy hundred and a quality bowling effort powered India to a 36-run victory over Australia, denying two fallen heroes a fairytale script while sounding a warning bell for their opponents in the World Cup here Sunday.
The legend of Dhawan in ICC tournaments continued to grow ashis stylish 117 formed the cornerstone of a fantastic batting display thatpropelled India to a commanding 352 for five.
In reply, Australia never looked like getting there as theymanaged only 316 in 50 overs with Steve Smith (69 off 70 balls) and DavidWarner's (56 off 84 balls) half-centuries being of little consequence.
After a professional run-chase against South Africa in theopener, the second match saw the 'Men In Blue' burying the five-time worldchampions under a deluge of runs. An astounding 131 dot balls (21.5 overs) werebowled by Indian bowlers which ultimately made the difference.
Warner's innings was an antithesis to his style of play andpegged Australia back before he was sent back by Yuzvendra Chahal (2/62 in 10overs). Still Australia was in with a slim chance till Usman Khawaja (42) andSmith were at the crease.
Khawaja shuffled way too much trying to play a scoop behindsquare and was bowled by Jasprit Bumrah (3/61 in 10 overs), and Australia lostwhatever momentum they had gained.
Smith, who played his usual shuffling across the off-stumpgame, looked threatening but an asking rate of 10 put immense pressure, andBhuvneshwar Kumar got him with one that angled in to catch him in-front ofstumps. It was a nice comeback for Bhuvneshwar (3/50 in 10 overs), who was hitfor three boundaries by Glenn Maxwell.
Once Smith was gone, the game was as good as over forAustralia even though Alex Carey helped himself to a half-century (55 no off 35balls). Having beaten South Africa and Australia in the first two games, Indiawill now be considered as the team to beat in this tournament.
Earlier, Dhawan, during his 17th ODI hundred found perfectsupport from fellow opener Rohit Sharma (57 off 70 balls) in a stand of 127. Hethen joined forces with Virat Kohli, consolidating the innings with a 93-runstand for the second wicket.
The skipper played a very effective knock with his twomaximums off Mitchell Starc (1/74 off 10 overs) — over long-on and extra cover— being the stand-out shots of the game.
The last 10 overs yielded 116 runs, primarily due togenerous contributions from the middle-order players Hardik Pandya and MahendraSingh Dhoni along with their skipper.
The team's permanent floater, Pandya (48 off 27 balls)played in a manner only he can, and was the perfect icing on the cake on a flatOval deck. Dhoni (27 off 14 balls) did his bit in putting the finishingtouches, which included a six over square leg off Starc.
After skipper Kohli made the right call, the Indian openersplayed out a good spell from Starc and Pat Cummins (1/55 in 10 overs), with thelatter pitching it up and repeatedly beating the bat.
What worked brilliantly for the Indian batsmen was themanner in which they planned which bowlers they wanted to go after.
They took 157 runs from 20 overs bowled by Marcus Stoinis(2/62 in 7 overs), Adam Zampa (0/50 in 6 overs) and Glenn Maxwell (0/45 in 7overs).
Rohit was dropped on 2 by Nathan Coulter-Nile at square legoff Starc and from then, the Indian openers became more cautious.
Dhawan, who has a stupendous record at the Oval ground,where he averages over 120, waited for Coulter-Nile, and three boundaries inthe eighth over eased the pressure.
The hero of Australia's match against West Indies, didn'thave the pace to trouble the Indians and he bowled short enough to be cut andpulled by both the players. Rohit, for good measure, hooked him for a six whileDhawan played some fabulous cut shots.
Leg spinner Zampa (0/50 in 6 overs), who was impressive against India in the last series, was targeted at the onset as both the openers used their feet to perfection. Once they started using their feet, the leg-spinner started dropping it short and Dhawan would rock onto the backfoot to punish him. There's a saying in Indian cricket that if Dhawan gets his cover drive going, he is unstoppable and that's what happened on the day. Rohit was more subdued but it didn't matter as the Delhi southpaw's 16 hits to the fence set the tone. PTI