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Twitter Reactions: India deny Steve Smith-powered Australia in Rajkot to level the series

India's total of 340 runs proved to enough on a flat Rajkot pitch.

KL Rahul
KL Rahul. (Photo Source: Twitter)

India have levelled the three-match series against Australia by winning the second ODI in Rajkot. It was a clinical performance from the hosts, first with the bat and then with the ball as they never let Australia make a comeback into the game. The visitors, at one stage, threatened to gun down 341 but regular fall of wickets in the second half of the innings led to their undoing as India won the game by 36 runs.

Earlier, Aaron Finch won the toss again and invited India to bat first. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, this time around, got the team off to a good start. The former, especially, was timing the ball beautifully and continued from where he left off at the Wankhede. Rohit also played a couple of gorgeous shots but was fluffed by Adam Zampa on 42.

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Virat Kohli walked out to bat at three as expected and the Indian innings seemed to be back on track again unlike the series opener. He and Dhawan rotated the strike and punished bad deliveries while stitching a 103-run partnership for the second wicket. The latter was opening up at the perfect time for the hosts and looked set to get to his 18th ODI ton.

But the southpaw pulled a short ball off Kane Richardson straight to Mitchell Starc when on 96 and missed out on a well-deserved century. Shreyas Iyer also fell soon which feared a similar collapse like the previous game. But KL Rahul, batting at five, and Virat Kohli resurrected the innings and even after the Indian skipper got out, his partner kept going.

Rahul played a sublime knock and once again proved his worth in the team. His 52-ball 80 proved to be a huge asset for India as they were propelled to 340 after 50 overs. Virat Kohli’s 78 were also clinical as, at the halfway stage, the Men in Blue seemed to have posted a decent total with the batting expected to get better under the lights. For Australia, Zampa was the most successful bowler with the figures of 3/50.

Smith’s 98 goes in vain as India strike regularly

Chasing 341, Australia needed another good start from their openers Aaron Finch and David Warner. But that wasn’t the case this time around. The latter was rather unlucky, one can say, as Manish Pandey pulled off a blinder of a catch in the fourth over of the innings at cover-point to bring the Rajkot crowd alive. Warner is always a dangerous batsman and to get rid of him only on 15 proved to be a huge confidence booster for the home team.

However, Finch and Steve Smith joined hands and went about their business. The 62-run partnership was looking good for the visitors and the Aussie skipper was just about looking to play his shots. And his approach worked in India’s favour with Ravindra Jadeja getting him stumped in the 16th over. The call was marginal but the third umpire went with the fielding side.

There was no respite for India though as Smith and Marnus Labuschagne just seamlessly stitched yet another partnership. It seemed as if there was no pressure on the duo as they collected runs easily. Smith got to his 50 as well even while Labuschagne made no fuss about his debut ODI innings. He was closing in on a well-deserved half-century. But a checked shot in the air off Jadeja brought about his dismissal and eventually, in hindsight, it proved to be the turning point in the game.

When Labuchagne got out, Australia still needed 163 runs in around 19 overs and though Smith tried his best, wickets kept tumbling at the other end. The 38th over of the innings proved to be the final nail in the coffin as Kuldeep Yadav dismissed Carey and Smith (on 98). Smith was just batting sublimely until then but was played on and this is where Australia’s hopes of sealing the series were dashed.

The equation went out of their reach in the upcoming overs and the Indian pacers, Mohammed Shami and Navdeep Saini, didn’t give an inch to the tail-enders as India levelled the series in style. Australia were bowled out for 304 in the pursuit of 341 in the final over of the innings. The series is nicely set up for a blockbuster of a decider at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Sunday.

Here’s how Twitter reacted:

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