Predictions of India’s masterly domination over an Associate team seemed fanciful when at the end of three overs, only nine runs had been scored and KL Rahul had fallen to a dubious LBW decision which was not reviewed. With Rohit Sharma looking to hit his way out of trouble and Kohli calmly biding his time, at the end of 10 overs India were merely 67/1, a middling start at best, even by the lethargic SCG’s standards.
Rohit fell in the 12th over for a scratchy but eventually satisfying 39-ball 53 (4×4, 3×6). By the end of 15 India had done marginally better to take the score to 114/2, with Kohli on 32 off 30. This was when things changed.
At the other end, Suryakumar Yadav, who got his first stint in the middle in Australian conditions in this World Cup, had already signalled his intentions with a 9-ball 17 till that point, using his wrists to flick, his pick-up shot, to dismiss some not-so-bad balls and even unleashing a straightforward classic cover drive.
However, the Dutch still had hope of escaping with head held high. If only they could keep it tight. If only they could field well. If only a mishit somehow ballooned up within catchable range. If only.
The 16th over from pacer Bas de Leede changed the momentum. Suryakumar hit two incredible boundaries off the first two balls, the first one beating three fielders on the off-side as the batter remarkably opened the bat face at the last instant to guide the ball through to the extra-cover boundary.
The second was more of a power statement, bludgeoned again through the off side. Kohli joined the act, making fast work of a slower delivery. It was just the injection of ‘wow’ India’s innings needed.
For his superb batting display, @surya_14kumar bags the Player of the Match award as #TeamIndia beat Netherlands to… https://t.co/24ZXcoxoA0
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1666867831000
Kohli hit Fred Klaasen for a six and four for back-to-back fifties, eventually ending on a 44-ball 62 not out (3×4, 2×6). Netherlands bowled two tight overs, the 18th and the 19th, but two sixes in the last over from Surya (51 not out off 25 balls; 7×4, 1×6) took India to a strong 179/2.
Netherlands, a stronger bowling and fielding unit, were never in the race after that, especially with the surface allowing spinners Axar Patel (2/18) and Ravichandran Ashwin (2/21) a rare moment in the spotlight in Australia. Pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar too was on the money.
Once Axar got rid of their batting fulcrum, Max O’Dowd, with his second ball, Netherlands were playing catch-up. Only Tim Pringle, the centre of attention earlier for dropping Rohit, hung around for a 15-ball 20 before an excellent running catch by Kohli at mid-off ended his misery. They eventually lost by 56 runs, getting to 123/9 thanks only to a six-ball unbeaten 14 from their No. 11.
India ticked some important boxes in this game. For the second time running in this World Cup, the team’s outing was eventually all about Kohli, the man the crowds here come to see.
While Kohli seems hell bent on making this tournament his own, there was also Suryakumar, who has now shown his maverick style cannot be cramped on Australian pitches by lesser attacks.
India also seem to have hit upon their perfect XI for all conditions across Australia, for there was wide variance in the nature of the surface from the MCG to here.
They now go to the top of their group, but this minnow bashing will be quickly forgotten. It’s onward to the biggest remaining challenge, South Africa, who hit 205/5 and beat Bangladesh by 104 runs, lie in wait on a scorcher of a pitch in Perth on Sunday.