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Virat and his team were game changers in 2019

By HARISH KOTIAN
January 01, 2020 10:44 IST
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The Indian cricket team went from strength to strength in 2019, especially in Test cricket where they are rightly perched at the top.

India was unbeaten in Test cricket in 2019 which included winning their first-ever series in Australia, after which the Indians registered three successive whitewashes against the West Indies, South Africa and Bangladesh.

In ODIs, India enjoyed a consistent run having lost just one series out of five played. But the biggest disappointment for India in the 50-overs format came at the 2019 World Cup when they were beaten by New Zealand in the semi-final after a lacklustre batting performance.

Keeping an eye on the T20 World Cup in Australia this year, India played a few T20I series last year.

They started off in poor fashion with successive series defeats against New Zealand and Australia before they recovered to whitewash the West Indies 3-0, whom they again beat at the end of the year, along with another series win in Bangladesh.

Harish Kotian/Rediff.com looks at how the Indian cricket team fared in 2019:

 

Test matches in 2019:

IMAGE: The Indians celebrate winning the Test series against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground, January 7, 2019. Photograph: Mark Evans/Getty Images

India started the year with a bang!

Having held on for a draw in the Sydney Test against Australia, India created history by registering their first-ever Test series victory Down Under.

India took the game away from Australia courtesy of centuries from Cheteshwar Pujara (193) and Rishabh Pant (159) as they posted a mammoth 622/7 declared after electing to bat in the rain-affected fourth and final Test.

It ended India's 71-year wait for a Test series victory in Australia as the visitors clinched the series 2-1, following victories in Adelaide and Melbourne.

India's next Test assignment came after a long wait of seven months with two important limited overs tournament -- the IPL and the World Cup -- scheduled back to back.

A confident India demolished the hapless West Indies to clinch a 2-0 series win in the Caribbean.

Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane ended his barren run with an 81 and 100 in the two innings of the first Test while Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah claimed five wickets each to send the Windies crashing to defeat.

In the second Test in Jamaica, young Hanuma Vihari proved his pedigree with a splendid century and a brisk fifty while Bumrah took six wickets to bowl India to another easy win.

A confident India then ripped South Africa apart with a 3-0 series whitewash. More than the result, the series will be remembered for Rohit Sharma's rebirth in Test cricket as the Mumbai right-hander grabbed the opportunity with both hands when he was asked to open the batting in Test matches.

Rohit started off his first innings as opener with a 176 in the series opener in Visakhapatnam, putting on 317 runs for the opening wicket with Mayank Agarwal who stroked a career-best 215.

Rohit Sharma

IMAGE: Rohit Sharma celebrates scoring a hundred in his first Test as India opener on Day 1 of the series opener against South Africa, in Visakhapatnam. Photograph: BCCI

Rohit became the only Indian to hit a century opening the innings in all three formats of international cricket.

Rohit continued his habit of making it big as he hit another century in the second innings, to register a century in each innings in his first Test as opener to power India to an easy 203-run victory.

In the process, he emulated Sunil Gavaskar's feat of an Indian opener hitting a century in both innings of a Test.

Among the bowlers, Ravichandran Ashwin took 7/145 in the first innings while Mohammed Shami took 5/35 in the second essay to send the visitors crashing for 191.

In the second Test, Mayank helped himself to another century (108) but he was overshadowed by Captain Virat Kohli who stroked a majestic 254 as South Africa, who were asked to follow on, lost by an innings and 137 runs.

It kept getting worse for South Africa. Rohit continued his magical start as opener scoring 215 runs in the final Test in Ranchi while his Mumbai team mate Ajinkya Rahane hit a solid 115 as India won by an even bigger margin of an innings and 202 runs.

Bangladesh also proved to be easy fodder for the confident Indians. The first Test In Indore was an one-sided affair courtesy of Mayank's magnificent 243 and the pace trio of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Shami who sent Bangladesh crashing to an innings and 130 run defeat.

IMAGE: Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav took 19 wickets in the day-night Test against Bangladesh in Kolkata. Photograph: BCCI

The fired-up Indian pace attack had more misery in store for Bangladesh's batting line-up in the historic first-ever day-night Test in India at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

Bangladesh found the pink ball too hot to handle as they were sent crashing for 106 after electing to bat.

Captain Kohli gave Bangladesh batsmen a masterclass on how to counter the pink ball with a solid innings of 136 before the pace trio sent the visitors crashing for 195 as India won by an innings and 46 runs.

World No 1 India finished the year unbeaten as they won seven out of the eight Tests played by huge margins which also helped them open a huge gap at the top of the ICC World Test Championships.

 

One-Day Internationals in 2019

A confident India followed up their historic Test series triumph with a 2-1 series victory in the ODI series against Australia.

India were beaten in the first ODI in Sydney by 34 runs despite a brilliant century (133) from opener Rohit Sharma.

Rohit had to wage a lone battle after three of India's top four batsmen could not reach double digits and lasted a mere 11 balls as he stitched together a 137-run stand for the fourth wicket with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who made 51 from 96 balls before he was given out to a dubious LBW shout.

India bounced back strongly in the next match in Adelaide. Captain Kohli led from the front with a sparkling 104 from 112 balls while Dhoni stroked a quickfire 55 from 54 balls as India chased down 299 with four balls to spare to register an easy 6 wicket win.

Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal took centrestage in the series decider as he took 6/42 to send Australia crashing for 230.

Dhoni continued his good run, hitting 87 not out and was involved in an unbroken stand of 121 runs for the fourth wicket with Kedar Jadhav (61 not out) as India won by 7 wickets to win the series 2-1.

Yuzvendra Chahal

IMAGE: Yuzvendra Chahal celebrates a wicket during the third ODI against Australia in Melbourne. Photograph: BCCI

India followed it up with another good showing in New Zealand as they routed the Kiwis 4-1 in the five-match ODI series.

Kuldeep Yadav's wizardry (4/39) saw the Kiwis collapse for 157 in 38 overs, losing their last 6 wickets for 50 runs. In reply, Shikhar Dhawan's breezy 75 helped India chase down the target in 34.5 overs as they romped home to an 8 wicket victory.

In the next game, India proved unstoppable. Electing to bat, India amassed a huge 325/4 in their 50 overs, with openers Rohit Sharma (87) and Shikhar Dhawan (66) hitting half-centuries. Once again, Dhoni (48 not out from 33 balls) and Jadhav (22 not out from 10 balls) provided fireworks at the end.

Kuldeep once again starred with the ball as he claimed 4/45 to send New Zealand packing for 234 as the visitors won by 90 runs.

In the third ODI, New Zealand's batsmen were again found wanting as they posted a modest 243 after electing to bat. Rohit continued his good run with the bat, hitting 62, while Kohli made 60 as India eased to a 7 wicket victory with 7 overs to spare to seal the 5 match series 3-0.

New Zealand scored a consolation victory in the fourth game as India's batsmen failed to live up to expectations. Pace bowler Trent Boult took 5/21 to bundle out the famed Indian batting line-up for a paltry 92, which was missing Kohli who was given a break for the final two games.

Ambati Rayudu justified his place at No 4 with a match-winning innings of 90 in the final ODI as the Rohit Sharma-led Indian team won by 35 runs to claim a 4-1 series win.

A new-look Australia extracted revenge for their series loss earlier in the year as they beat India in their backyard 3-2, bouncing back after losing the first two games.

Dhoni (59 not out) and Jadhav (81 not out) steered India to a 6 wicket win in the series opener in Hyderabad after Australia posted a modest 236/7 in 50 overs.

Captain Kohli stroked 116 in the second ODI in Nagpur to help India claim an 8 wicket victory with pacer Jasprit Bumrah's excellent bowling at the death as he took 2/2 in his last 2 overs.

Thereafter, it was Australia all the way. The Aussies bounced back strongly courtesy of Usman Khawaja's 104 which lifted them to a huge 313 as India lost by 32 runs despite a 95-ball 123 from Kohli.

In the fourth game, Dhawan stroked an entertaining 143 from 115 balls to power India to a huge 358, but Australia never lost hope.

After Peter Handscomb kept his team in the hunt in the middle overs with a splendid 117 from 105 balls, Ashton Turner turned the game on its head with a stunning 84 from 43 balls, hitting 6 sixes and 5 fours.

Khawaja (100) stroked another century in the series decider as India's batsmen struggled to chase down 273 and lost by 35 runs.

India started as one of the favourites at the 2019 World Cup and justified that top billing when they got the better of South Africa in their opening match by 6 wickets.

Chahal's 4/27 saw South Africa finish on 227 in 50 overs before Rohit's 122 not out helped India cruise to an emphatic victory.

Rohit's opening partner Shikhar Dhawan hit a century (117) in the next game against Australia while Kohli (82) and Hardik Pandya (48 from 27 balls) powered India to a huge 352/5 in 50 overs.

In reply, Australia mustered 316 with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Bumrah picking up three wickets each.

The all-important game against Pakistan turned out to be a damp squib.

There was no stopping Rohit who hammered 140 from 113 balls. Kohli and K L Rahul, playing in place of the injured Dhawan, hit half-centuries to help India post 336/5.

Rohit Sharma

IMAGE: Rohit Sharma celebrates his century during the ICC World Cup game against Pakistan. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

Pakistan were never really in the contest as they finished on a disappointing 212/6 in 40 overs after the target was revised because of rain.

Afghanistan gave India a mighty scare as they restricted the two-time World Champions to a modest 224.

It was only because of superb bowling at the death by Shami (4/40), who claimed a hat-trick, and Jasprit Bumrah (2/39), which helped India escape to a narrow 11 run victory.

India promptly pulled up their socks in the next game against the West Indies, winning by 125 runs, Kohli top-scoring with a fluent 72. Shami took 4/16. Bumrah registered wonderful figures of 2/9 in 6 overs.

After five successive wins, India suffered their first defeat when they lost by 31 runs to hosts and eventual champions England.

Electing to bat, England posted 337/7, courtesy of openers Jonny Bairstow (111) and Jason Roy (66) who put on 160 runs for the first wicket. Ben Stokes smashed a quickfire 79 from 54 balls at the end.

For India, Rohit's 102 and Kohli's 66 was not enough to prevent them from sliding to a 31 run defeat.

By this stage, Rohit was firing on all cylinders. The opener hit 104 from 92 balls, putting on 180 runs for the opening wicket with Rahul (77) to lift India to 314/9 against Bangladesh, who were bundled out for 286 courtesy of Bumrah's 4/55.

In their final league game, India got the better of Sri Lanka by 7 wickets. Rohit hit a record fifth century in the World Cup -- the first batsman to achieve the feat.

Rohit (103) and Rahul (111) hit centuries as India eased past Sri Lanka with 39 balls to spare.

Just when it looked that India were all set to lay their hands on the World Cup, they were shocked by New Zealand in the semi-final.

Electing to bat, New Zealand were restricted to 239, but the Kiwis put in a spirited performance with the ball to emerge unlikely winners.

The top 3 -- Rahul, Rohit and Kohli -- all scored just one as the pace duo of Matt Henry (3/37) and Trent Boult (2/42) ripped apart the India batting.

IMAGE: New Zealand's players celebrate Virat Kohli's wicket during the ICC World Cup semi-final. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Ravindra Jadeja (77 from 59 balls) and Dhoni (50 not out) waged a late fightback, but in the end it was not enough to take India past the line in a rain-hit game which finished on the second day (reserve day).

After the World Cup, India travelled to the West Indies for a limited overs series, comprising three T20Is and three ODIs.

The first match was washed out before Kohli's century (120) guided India to victory in the secong game by 59 runs via the Duckworth-Lewis method.

The captain hit another century in the final game, hitting 114 not out from 119 balls as India cruised to 256/4 in 32.3 overs to win by 6 wickets after the match was reduced to 35 overs following rain as the visitors claimed a 2-0 series win.

India's final assignment of the year was the three-match ODI series at home against the West Indies.

The visitors shocked India by 8 wickets in the first match courtesy of Shimron Hetmyer's swashbuckling 139 from 106 balls with good support from Shai Hope who hit a cautious 102 not out from 151 balls.

India responded strongly in the next match. Rohit smashed a brilliant 159 from 138 balls, putting on a huge opening stand of 227 runs with Rahul, who stroked 102. Shreyas Iyer hit 53 from 32 balls, to power the hosts to a huge 387/5.

Kuldeep (3/52) and Shami (3/39) bowled the West Indies out for 280 in 43.3 overs.

In the series decider, the West Indies posted a healthy 315/5 courtesy Nicholas Pooran's brilliant 89 from 64 balls and Captain Kieron Pollard's quickfire 74 from 51 balls.

India's top 3 made it count as Rahul (77), Rohit (63) and Kohli (85) helped India complete a 4 wicket victory with 8 balls to spare.

The match was tantalisingly poised after Kohli's departure but Shardul Thakur played a cameo of 17 not out from 6 balls and Jadeja slammed 39 from 31 balls to give India a 2-1 series victory.

 

T20 Internationals in 2019:

With an eye on the T20 World Cup in Australia in 2020, India played several T20I series in 2019.

They started off with a three match series in New Zealand, which the hosts won 2-1.

In the first match, Tim Seifert's quickfire 84 from 43 balls helped New Zealand rout the Rohit Sharma-led India by 80 runs. The visitors were shot out for a lowly 139 after being set a huge 220 for victory.

India bounced back in the second game when Krunal Pandya's 3/28 and Rohit's blistering 50 from 29 balls helped them win by 7 wickets.

The series-deciding T20I was evenly contested as New Zealand posted 212/4 despite Kuldeep's 2/26.

India made a strong reply as Rohit (38) and Vijay Shankar (43) rallied the visitors with a 75-run partnership.

Dinesh Karthik, who hit 33 not out from 16 balls, and Krunal Pandya's 26 from 13 balls, made a valiant effort, but the Kiwis sneaked home by 4 runs to clinch the series.

India suffered another reverse in the shortest format when they were blanked 2-0 by Australia in front of their home fans.

Rahul started off the Indian innings on the right note with a 36-ball 50, but the rest of the batsmen struggled as India finished on a disappointing 126/7.

Australia kept losing wickets throughout the run chase, but Glenn Maxwell's 56 from 43 balls carried them home off the last ball as the visitors clinched a narrow 3 wicket win.

Bumrah had kept India in the contest with 3/16 in his four overs, including just 2 runs in the crucial 19th over, to leave 14 to get off the final over bowled by Umesh Yadav.

Tailenders Pat Cummins (7 from 3 balls) and Jhye Richardson (7 from 3 balls) scored a boundary each in the final over to take their team across the line.

In the must-win second T20, Kohli's blistering 72 from 38 balls and Dhoni's 23-ball 40 lifted India to a healthy 190/4, which looked enough at that stage.

But 'Big Show' Maxwell had other ideas. He shredded the Indian bowling with his brutal strokeplay, hammering 113 from just 55 balls, hitting 9 sixes and 7 fours, to leave the home fans stunned as Australia won by 3 wickets and 2 balls to spare.

Glenn Maxwell

IMAGE: Glenn Maxwell hits out during his match-winning innings during the final T20 International against India in Bengaluru. Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

India finally got back to winning ways as they swept West Indies 3-0 in a three-match T20I series, with the first two matches played in Florida and the last game in Guyana.

Debutant pacer Navdeep Saini took 3/17 while Bhuvneshwar claimed 2/19 to send the West Indies packing for a lowly 95 before India's batsmen made a mess of the easy run chase. Somehow, the Indians managed to win by 4 wickets with 16 balls to spare.

Rohit showed his class in the second game with a 51-ball 67 to lift India to 167 before the West Indies again struggled to finish on 98 in 15.3 overs.

In the inconsequential third match, Kieron Pollard hit 58 from 45 balls to rally the Windies to a competitive 146/6. India were hardly troubled in the run chase courtesy of a 106-run stand for the third wicket between Kohli (59 from 45 balls) and Pant who stroked a quickfire 65 from 42 balls.

The three-match series between India and South Africa finished 1-1 after the first game in Dharamsala was washed out due to rain.

In the second match in Mohali, South Africa posted 149/5 courtesy of Quinton de Kock's 52 from 37 balls before Kohli guided India home with a quickfire 72 not out from 52 balls.

In the final T20I in Bengaluru, the hosts posted a modest 134/9. De Kock shone again with 79 from 52 balls as South Africa won by 9 wickets with 19 balls to spare.

Bangladesh gave India a wake up call as they emerged victorious in the opening T20 match in Delhi as Kohli and the frontline fast bowlers were given a rest.

Put into bat, India never got going as they were restricted to 148/6. Veteran Mushfiqur Rahim steered Bangladesh to an emphatic 7 wicket victory in the final over as he stroked a brilliant 60 from 43 balls.

Hurt by the loss, India took Bangladesh apart in the second game. Rohit showed the way, smashing an entertaining 85 from 43 balls, with 6 sixes and as many fours as India chased down 154 with just 2 wickets down and 26 balls to spare.

In the series-deciding third match in Nagpur, half-centuries from Shreyas Iyer (62 from 33 balls) and Rahul (52 from 35 balls) saw India post a healthy 174/5. Pacer Deepak Chahar claimed a hat-trick to lift India to a 30-run victory.

Chahar had a sensational 6 wicket haul -- his figures read 6/7 in 3.2 overs -- as he became the first Indian to take a hat-trick in T20 Internationals.

IMAGE: Deepak Chahar celebrates his hat-trick. Photograph: BCCI

India ended their T20I assignment for the year with a three-match series against the West Indies.

Shimron Hetmyer's quickfire 56 from 41 balls and Jason Holder's blazing 24 from 9 balls powered the West Indies to a huge 207/5.

Kohli steered India home with a magnificent 94 not out from 50 balls. Rahul stroked 62 from 40 balls as India won by 6 wickets with 8 balls to spare.

The West Indies showed why their players are so much in demand in T20 leagues around the world with a superb victory in the second game in Thiruvananthapuram.

Shivam Dube's 30-ball 54 had lifted India to 177/7, but Lendl Simmons gave the Windies a flying start as he smashed 67 not out from 45 balls.

Pooran took the Windies home with his attacking 38 not out from just 18 balls as the Windies won by 8 wickets with 9 balls remaining.

In the decider, it was Kohli yet again, who shone with the bat. The captain took the West Indies bowling to the cleaners as he blasted a sensational 70 from 29 balls. Rahul smashed 91 from 56 balls and Rohit hammered 71 from 34 balls to power India to a mammoth 240/3.

Captain Pollard hit 68 from 39 balls, but the West Indies were never in the contest as India won by 67 runs to take the series 2-1.

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