Bharat Army inspire India to end Australia's ODI winning streak
Australia's ODI winning streak is over. India, with the unswerving support of the boisterous Bharat Army, overwhelmed their rivals in a high-scoring contest at The Oval.
In an atmosphere more accustomed to Bangalore or Chennai than a suburb of south London, Virat Kohli's side produced an impressive performance that, if there were any doubts beforehand, underlined why they are serious contenders for glory in England.
The battle between bat and ball was as lopsided as the one in the stands, as India’s fans outnumbered their Australian counterparts to such a degree that a game of 'Spot The Aussie' would have kept you busy during the quieter periods of the contest.
"India have amazing support everywhere they go everywhere around the world," said Australia skipper Aaron Finch in something of an understatement during his post-match press conference.
"Their fans are very vocal. They're great to play in front of because they provide so much atmosphere."
Still, in a crash-bang-wallop encounter that saw the teams combine for 668 runs, a rare seven-over period of one-day serenity that produced just 22 proved crucial in deciding the outcome.
India's opening batsmen weathered an early barrage to good effect, seeing off Australia’s twin strike force of Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc without any damage. Shikhar Dhawan did cop a blow to the hand but crucially survived the spell, allowing him to prosper once the opposition's most dangerous weapons were stood down from service.
The left-hander has a miserable Test record in England, managing a highest score of 44 in seven games. When it comes to the white ball, however, he is transformed into a different player entirely.
His knock of 117 laid solid foundations for India to attack, even if he had departed by the time the late carnage unfolded, caught in the deep when a hack at a full ball only ended up finding the fielder on the midwicket rope.
Before the ugly finish, though, he had unfurled some glorious shots to reach his fourth ODI century on English soil, where he averages 64.76. At The Oval, that number rises to a stratospheric 110.75.
"They took their time, obviously. They assessed the conditions really quickly and identified they [Cummins and Starc] were going to be the two biggest threats in the innings," Finch admitted.
"Not getting wickets was key there [at the beginning]. They played it really well and negated our biggest threats.”
Australia attempted to follow the example of their opponents in reply, building cautiously to start with in the hope of countering later on, yet they crucially lost well-set batsmen each time they had set nerves jangling among the expectant crowd.
The run out of Finch curtailed an opening stand of 61, David Warner was unusually subdued in making 56 while Steve Smith – greeted by some from the stands with chants of "Cheater! Cheater! Cheater!” as he made his way to the middle - perished for a team-high 69.
In the end, not even Alex Carey’s 25-ball fifty – his country's fastest ever at a World Cup – could make up the deficit in the closing overs, meaning Australia suffered their first defeat in 11 ODIs.
Their spell of success began back on March 8 in Ranchi, sparking a turnaround in the ODI series with India as they fought back from 2-0 to triumph. They tried hard to keep the streak alive on Sunday too, but India – inspired by a fanatical following – drummed them out in the end.