India shows title ambitions with 36-run win vs Australia

LONDON (AP) — Months of planning came to sweet fruition as India passed its first big test in style at the Cricket World Cup.

India revealed its ambition ran deep to regain the title it lost to Australia four years ago in crushing the Aussies by 36 runs on Sunday at an atmospheric Oval packed to the rim in blue shirts.

India paced its innings superbly in racking up 352-5 with a century by opener Shikhar Dhawan. After choosing to bat first and inflicting the highest World Cup total by a team against Australia, India captain Virat Kohli then unleashed his bowlers, who squeezed the Australians to the point they never made the chase credible.

The defending champions were all out for 316 on the last ball, and were flattered to be within 36 runs of the Indians.

“It was the perfect game for us,” Kohli said.

India was so in control that Kohli took sympathy on Australia’s Steve Smith and signaled to India fans to stop abusing Smith and applaud him instead. Smith, just back from a ball-tampering suspension, gave Kohli appreciation on the field.

“I just felt for him, and I told him, I’m sorry on behalf of the crowd because I’ve seen that happen in a few earlier games as well and, in my opinion, that’s not acceptable,” Kohli said.

His empathy didn’t cover all of the Australians, however. Kohli demanded a performance. Since the last World Cup, when Australia ended India’s reign in the semifinals, the rivals came to this game 9-9 against each other, including 4-4 this year. But in World Cup history, this was only India’s fourth win against Australia in 12 matchups.

The teams are good enough to meet again in the playoffs, but India laid down the first marker in this impressive victory.

“We had a point to prove to beat this side,” Kohli said. “We came with intent.”

Kohli wanted to create and achieve scoreboard pressure, and it got to Australia counterpart Aaron Finch, going for a second run and being run out easily while on 36 from 35 balls.

Fellow opener David Warner was also slow. Even with Smith as a partner, they reached the 20th over still under 5 an over and already needing 8.

Warner’s 50 was his slowest yet in ODIs, off 77 balls, only three days after his previous slowest, off 74 against Afghanistan. He was out caught in the deep on 56 trying to up the pace. Finch defended Warner, happy with his pace, and giving credit to the bowlers.

The longer Smith was in, the better Australia’s chances. But he was out in the 40th over, plumb lbw to Bhuvneshwar Kumar for 69 off 70 balls.

Australia needed 115 off the last 10 overs to win. India hit 116 off the last 10 overs. But the same Australia XI which beat Afghanistan and the West Indies never looked like taking the risk, as it scored only what India seemed to allow.

Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah evenly shared six wickets after watching their batsmen set up the victory.

Dhawan and Rohit Sharma opened with typical caution. They didn’t offer a decent chance to Australia until the 23rd over.

By then, Sharma joined greats Sachin Tendulkar (3,077 runs), Desmond Haynes (2,262), and Viv Richards (2,187) as the only players to score 2,000 ODI runs against Australia.

Sharma’s and Dhawan’s 16th century stand in ODIs tied for second in history with Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden, and behind only the 21 of Sourav Ganguly and Tendulkar, who was in attendance. Sharma ended the partnership on 127, fishing at a Nathan Coulter-Nile riser and giving a catch behind. After his unbeaten century against South Africa, he anchored again with 57.

Dhawan had been the aggressor, and he was imperious the whole time except when he reached his century, which came from an overthrow. To sustained acclaim, Dhawan celebrated his 17th ODI hundred, his fourth against Australia, and third in World Cup cricket. This was in the 33rd over, 24 overs after he’d taken a Pat Cummins bouncer and needed his left thumb bandaged.

He was on 117 when he was caught on the boundary in the 37th over, and walked off to a standing ovation.

Hardik Pandya was promoted and dropped first ball by wicketkeeper Alex Carey off Coulter-Nile’s bowling. Pandya made Australia pay by smashing a 27-ball 48. Pandya and Kohli combined for 81 runs off 55 balls.

Kohli looked good for a century until Mahendra Singh Dhoni cut in with a 14-ball 27. Both batsmen were dismissed in the last over, Kohli off the penultimate ball for an easy 82 from a pedestrian 77 balls. He’d been happy to let the others smash.

Finch, who would have batted first, said they needed “to do the business in the first 10 overs.” Cummins and Starc kept India corked without luck, and the change bowlers released the pressure. Coulter-Nile went for 14 in his first over, Adam Zampa went for 11 in his first, and Marcus Stoinis’ short balls were treated with contempt.

India was confident scoreboard pressure would ruin Australia’s attempt to win an 11th straight ODI. It was India’s day.