At the historic MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, Team India embarked on their 2023 Cricket World Cup journey with a triumphant yet nervy win over Australia, elegantly sealing a pursuit of 200 in 41.2 overs, whilst sparing 6 wickets.
Virat Kohli and KL Rahul were the linchpins of India’s response, showcasing exemplary prowess and composure under precarious circumstances. Kohli crafted a well-measured 85 off 116 balls, while Rahul remained unyielding, unbeaten at 97, steering India safely to their target.
The chase, however, was initially teetering on disaster. India’s top order – Ishan Kishan, Rohit Sharma, and Shreyas Iyer – were sent back without troubling the scorers, exposing haunting memories of a dismal chase against New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup semifinal. At a precarious 2/3, echoes of past calamities loomed, yet Kohli and Rahul rose from the ashes, stringing together a lifeboat partnership of 165 runs, reprieving India from an imminent catastrophe.
In a dramatic twist, Kohli’s aspiration for his 48th ODI century was quashed in the 38th over, falling victim to a short delivery from Josh Hazlewood, only to be caught at short mid-wicket by Marnus Labuschagne. India’s requisite had boiled down to a manageable 33 runs at Kohli’s departure.
Kohli, afforded a precious reprieve early on his innings while at 12, capitalised on the Australian lapse. A missed catch off a Hazlewood bouncer allowed him and Rahul to meticulously carve a path to victory, adopting a cautious yet assertive approach, neutralising the Australian bowlers.
Rewinding to the first half of the day, Australia, having opted to bat, found themselves pinned by a relentless Indian attack. An early shock was delivered by Jasprit Bumrah, ousting Shaun Marsh without a score. A resilient partnership between David Warner and Steven Smith sought to resurrect the innings, but Warner, despite becoming the fastest to 1000 World Cup ODI runs, succumbed to a delivery from Kuldeep Yadav at 41. The innings oscillated further into despair as Smith and subsequent batsmen fell prey to Ravindra Jadeja’s devastating spell, crippling Australia to 119/5.
Struggling against the accurate and perplexing Indian spin attack, Australia’s lower order wobbled. Glenn Maxwell and Cameron Green fell victim to the spinning duo of Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin, establishing India’s dominion on the match. A brief, spirited resistance from Mitchell Starc (28 off 35) eventually folded, leaving India a seemingly straightforward chase of 200.
Despite a turbulent start, India, under the reliable stewardship of Kohli and Rahul, surmounted the challenge adeptly, scripting a heartening victory tale that will reside in cricketing folklore